Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

Lipids and calcium uptake of sperm in relation to cold shock and preservation: a review

IG White

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 5(6) 639 - 658
Published: 1993


When sperm of the ram, bull, boar and stallion are cold-shocked by rapid cooling to near freezing point, motility and metabolic activity are irreversibly depressed and the acrosome and plasma membrane disrupted. Ram sperm become susceptible to cold shock in the proximal corpus region of the epididymis when the cytoplasmic droplet has moved backwards to the distal portion of the sperm midpiece. The membrane constituents phospholipids and cholesterol are important in cold shock which causes loss of lipid from sperm. The susceptibility of sperm to cold shock is linked with a high ratio of unsaturated:saturated fatty acids in the phospholipids and a low cholesterol content. The high unsaturated fatty acid content of sperm also makes them susceptible to damage from peroxidation which adversely affects motility, metabolism, ultrastructure and fertility. Hydroxynonenal, a product of fatty acid peroxidation, depresses the motility and oxygen uptake of ram sperm in vitro and may react with the -SH groups of the axonemal microtubules. High calcium concentrations in the external medium may decrease the motility and metabolism of sperm and 'calcium intoxication' may be a factor in cold shock. Lowering the environmental temperature increases calcium uptake by sperm and the effect is aggravated if the rate of cooling is rapid. Phospholipids, particularly those in egg yolk, protect sperm to some extent from cold shock and also prevent increased calcium flux into the sperm. Suggestions are made for increasing the life span of sperm during preservation and microencapsulation by adding agents that may stabilize membranes, counter peroxidation and decrease calcium uptake.

© CSIRO 1993

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