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      Sperm Cryodamage in Ruminants: Understanding the Molecular Changes Induced by the Cryopreservation Process to Optimize Sperm Quality


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          Sperm cryopreservation represents a powerful tool for livestock breeding. Several efforts have been made to improve the efficiency of sperm cryopreservation in different ruminant species. However, a significant amount of sperm still suffers considerable cryodamage, which may affect sperm quality and fertility. Recently, the use of different “omics” technologies in sperm cryobiology, especially proteomics studies, has led to a better understanding of the molecular modifications induced by sperm cryopreservation, facilitating the identification of different freezability biomarkers and certain proteins that can be added before cryopreservation to enhance sperm cryosurvival. This review provides an updated overview of the molecular mechanisms involved in sperm cryodamage, which are in part responsible for the structural, functional and fertility changes observed in frozen–thawed ruminant sperm. Moreover, the molecular basis of those factors that can affect the sperm freezing resilience of different ruminant species is also discussed as well as the molecular aspects of those novel strategies that have been developed to reduce sperm cryodamage, including new cryoprotectants, antioxidants, proteins, nanoparticles and vitrification.

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          Reactive oxygen species as mediators of sperm capacitation and pathological damage.

          Oxidative stress plays a major role in the life and death of mammalian spermatozoa. These gametes are professional generators of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which appear to derive from three potential sources: sperm mitochondria, cytosolic L-amino acid oxidases, and plasma membrane Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidases. The oxidative stress created via these sources appears to play a significant role in driving the physiological changes associated with sperm capacitation through the stimulation of a cyclic adenosine monophosphate/Protein kinase A phosphorylation cascade, including the activation of Extracellular signal regulated kinase-like proteins, massive up-regulation of tyrosine phosphorylation in the sperm tail, as well as the induction of sterol oxidation. When generated in excess, however, ROS can induce lipid peroxidation that, in turn, disrupts membrane characteristics that are critical for the maintenance of sperm function, including the capacity to fertilize an egg. Furthermore, the lipid aldehydes generated as a consequence of lipid peroxidation bind to proteins in the mitochondrial electron transport chain, triggering yet more ROS generation in a self-perpetuating cycle. The high levels of oxidative stress created as a result of this process ultimately damage the DNA in the sperm nucleus; indeed, DNA damage in the male germ line appears to be predominantly induced oxidatively, reflecting the vulnerability of these cells to such stress. Extensive evaluation of antioxidants that protect the spermatozoa against oxidative stress while permitting the normal reduction-oxidation regulation of sperm capacitation is therefore currently being undertaken, and has already proven efficacious in animal models.
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            DNA damage to spermatozoa has impacts on fertilization and pregnancy.

            DNA damage in the male germ line has been associated with poor semen quality, low fertilization rates, impaired preimplantation development, increased abortion and an elevated incidence of disease in the offspring, including childhood cancer. The causes of this DNA damage are still uncertain but the major candidates are oxidative stress and aberrant apoptosis. The weight of evidence currently favours the former and, in keeping with this conclusion, positive results have been reported for antioxidant therapy both in vivo and in vitro. Resolving the causes of DNA damage in the male germ line will be essential if we are to prevent the generation of genetically damaged human embryos, particularly in the context of assisted conception therapy.
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              The Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA(®)) and other sperm DNA fragmentation tests for evaluation of sperm nuclear DNA integrity as related to fertility.

              Thirty-five years ago the pioneering paper in Science (240:1131) on the relationship between sperm DNA integrity and pregnancy outcome was featured as the cover issue showing a fluorescence photomicrograph of red and green stained sperm. The flow cytometry data showed a very significant difference in sperm DNA integrity between fertile and subfertile bulls and men. This study utilized heat (100°C, 5min) to denature DNA at sites of DNA strand breaks followed by staining with acridine orange (AO) and measurements of 5000 individual sperm of green double strand (ds) DNA and red single strand (ss) DNA fluorescence. Later, the heat protocol was changed to a low pH protocol to denature the DNA at sites of strand breaks; the heat and acid procedures produced the same results. SCSA data are very advantageously dual parameter with 1024 channels (degrees) of both red and green fluorescence. Hundreds of publications on the use of the SCSA test in animals and humans have validated the SCSA as a highly useful test for determining male breeding soundness. The SCSA test is a rapid, non-biased flow cytometer machine measurement providing robust statistical data with exceptional precision and repeatability. Many genotoxic experiments showed excellent dose response data with very low coefficient of variation that further validated the SCSA as being a highly powerful assay for sperm DNA integrity. Twelve years following the introduction of the SCSA test, the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated fluorescein-dUTP nick end labelling (TUNEL) test (1993) for sperm was introduced as the only other flow cytometric assay for sperm DNA fragmentation. However, the TUNEL test can also be done by light microscopy with much less statistical robustness. The COMET (1998) and Sperm Chromatin Dispersion (SCD; HALO) (2003) tests were introduced as light microscope tests that don't require a flow cytometer. Since these tests measure only 50-200 sperm per sample, they suffer from the lack of the statistical robustness of flow cytometric measurements. Only the SCSA test has an exact standardization of a fixed protocol. The many variations of the other tests make it very difficult to compare data and thresholds for risk of male factor infertility. Data from these four sperm DNA fragmentation tests plus the light microscope acridine orange test (AOT) are correlated to various degrees.

                Author and article information

                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                16 April 2020
                April 2020
                : 21
                : 8
                : 2781
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: AnaJosefa.Soler@ 123456uclm.es ; Tel.: +34-967599200-2552

                These authors contributed equally to this work.

                Author information
                © 2020 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 29 February 2020
                : 14 April 2020

                Molecular biology
                ruminant species,sperm cryopreservation,sperm cryodamage,proteomics
                Molecular biology
                ruminant species, sperm cryopreservation, sperm cryodamage, proteomics


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