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Andrologia. 1998 Aug-Sep;30(4-5):233-9.

Contribution of epididymal factors to sperm maturation and storage.

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Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, University of Sheffield, UK.


In fertile men, the majority of epididymal spermatozoa acquire the potential to fertilize (assessed with sperm function assays) on passage into the corpus and cauda regions of the epididymis. Although secretions of the epididymal epithelium are clearly important for sperm maturation and survival, their role in this process has yet to be fully determined. Alterations in epididymal sperm membranes may result from the incorporation of protein, sugar and lipid determinants. Most probably, factors of epididymal origin act in concert with constitutional changes to spermatozoa, which together permit full sperm function. Epididymal spermatozoa incubated with epididymal epithelial cell cultures can undergo some maturation in vitro, which can lead to the development of sperm fertilizing capacity. Co-incubations of human sperm with epididymal epithelial cultures, at 37 degrees C with medium replenished every other day, led to 50% of spermatozoa retaining motility after 8 days. In one case, a few spermatozoa survived for 17 days, the inherent maximal survival time of human spermatozoa in situ. An important aspect of coculture experiments is that close interactions between spermatozoa and epithelial cells can be examined in detail. This coculture technique may yield important information related to epididymal sperm maturation and storage.

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