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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2004

Sperm capacitation in the porcine oviduct

Tienthai P, Johannisson A, Rodriguez-Martinez H


In vitro studies suggests that sperm capacitation occurs in the sperm reservoir (SR) of the pig, with spermatozoa progressing towards the ampullary-isthmic junction (AIJ) around ovulation as a consequence of capacitation/hyperactivation. In contrast, in vivo studies are scarce. Consequently, we determined the degree of capacitation in boar spermatozoa that were retrieved from the SR of sows at well-defined periods of spontaneous standing oestrus, namely pre-, peri- and post-ovulation, using flow cytometry of Merocyanine-540Yo-Pro-1-loaded spermatozoa. SR-spermatozoa retrieved and incubated in non-capacitating medium (bicarbonate-free mBO [mBO-]) were largely viable (70-85%) and uncapacitated (69-73%), irrespective of the stage of oestrus considered. Those undergoing capacitation were a minor proportion (1-5%) during pre- and peri-ovulation, but they significantly increased (14%) in post-ovulation oestrus. To clarify whether these SR-spermatozoa were able to undergo capacitation under stimuli, sperm aliquots were challenged in vitro either by incubation in a bicarbonate-rich medium (capacitation medium, mBO+), then further in mBO+ with 20% (v/v) of in vivo collected homologous pre-ovulatory isthmic oviductal fluid (IOF), or incubation with hyaluronan (HA, 500 mug/ml). Exposure to mBO+ significantly increased the sub-population of capacitated spermatozoa from the pre- and peri-ovulation SR, indicating that the uncapacitated SR-spermatozoa were responsive to the effector/inducer bicarbonate at levels recorded in peri-ovulatory AIJ/ampulla in vivo. While addition of IOF or HA to SR-spermatozoa incubated in capacitating medium (mBO+) maintained sperm viability without obviously inducing capacitation in pre- or peri-ovulatory SR-spermatozoa, they significantly increased these percentages during post-ovulation, when compared to baseline values of control incubations (mBO-). The results suggest that massive sperm capacitation does not occur in vivo in the porcine SR under spontaneous standing oestrus, particularly during pre- and peri-ovulation, unless spermatozoa are exposed to the effector bicarbonate. Exposure to IOF (and its component HA) under the present experimental conditions, reversed bicarbonate influence during pre- and peri-ovulation and further increased capacitation in post ovulation, calling for an active role of the intratubal fluid. Furthermore, HA appears to have an active role in the functionality of the SR. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved

Published in

Animal Reproduction Science
2004, volume: 80, number: 1-2, pages: 131-146

Authors' information

Rodriguez, Heriberto
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Tienthai, P

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