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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e35477. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035477. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Confocal microscopy and image analysis indicates a region-specific relation between active caspases and cytoplasm in ejaculated and epididymal sperm.

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Laboratorio de Biología de la Reproducción, Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, El Cerrillo, Toluca, México.


Previously, it was suggested a relation between the presence of apoptosis markers with cytoplasm in mammalian sperm. In this work, flow cytometry, confocal microscopy and image analysis were used to analyze the relationship between active caspase-3 and -7 and intracellular esterases expression in ejaculated or epididymal ram sperm. Sperm obtained from ejaculates from the caput, corpus, or cauda of the epididymis were treated with an inhibitor of active caspase-3 and -7 and a marker of cytoplasmic esterases. Additionally, ejaculated sperm were incubated for one, two, or three hours before evaluation for active caspases. Sperm subpopulations positive for active caspases and/or intracellular esterases were detected by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy; however, image analysis of confocal images showed that the correlation between active caspases and cytoplasmic esterases in sperm is region-specific. Lower values of Spearman correlation coefficients were found when whole sperm or head sperm was analyzed; however, a high correlation was observed for midpiece sperm. Incubation of sperm for two or three hours promoted the autoactivation of caspases. It has been suggested that the presence of apoptotic markers in sperm are related with a process of abortive apoptosis and with errors during spermiogenesis. Our results permit us suggest that the origin of the relationship between active caspases and cytoplasmic esterases is due to differentiation errors occurring during spermiogenesis because the percentages of sperm with active caspases are not different in the caput, corpus, or cauda of the epididymis. In this study we demonstrate that existing sperm subpopulations can express active caspases and intracellular esterases and that the correlation between these molecules is high in midpiece sperm.

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