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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Sperm chromatin integrity and DNA methylation in Norwegian Red bulls of contrasting fertility

Narud, Birgitte; Khezri, Abdolrahman; Zeremichael, Teklu Tewoldebrhan; Stenseth, Else-Berit; Heringstad, Bjorg; Johannisson, Anders; Morrell, Jane M.; Collas, Philippe; Myromslien, Froydis Deinboll; Kommisrud, Elisabeth


In this study, the complexity of chromatin integrity was investigated in frozen-thawed semen samples from 37 sires with contrasting fertility, expressed as 56-day non-return rates (NR56). Protamine deficiency, thiols, and disulfide bonds were assessed and compared with previously published data for DNA fragmentation index (DFI) and high DNA stainability (HDS). In addition, in vitro embryo development and sperm DNA methylation were assessed using semen samples from 16 of these bulls. The percentages of DFI and HDS were negatively associated with NR56 and cleavage rate and positively associated with sperm protamine deficiency (p < 0.05). Significant differences in cleavage and blastocyst rates were observed between bulls of high and low NR56. However, once fertilization occurred, further development into blastocysts was not associated with NR56. The differential methylation analysis showed that spermatozoa from bulls of low NR56 were hypermethylated compared to bulls of high NR56. Pathway analysis showed that genes annotated to differentially methylated cytosines could participate in different biological pathways and have important biological roles related to bull fertility. In conclusion, sperm cells from Norwegian Red bulls of inferior fertility have less compact chromatin structure, higher levels of DNA damage, and are hypermethylated compared with bulls of superior fertility.


bull sperm; chromatin integrity; in vitro fertilization; non‐return rate; sperm DNA methylation

Published in

Molecular Reproduction and Development
2021, Volume: 88, number: 3, pages: 187-200 Publisher: WILEY

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      Animal and Dairy Science

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