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A new and simple method to evaluate early membrane changes in frozen–thawed boar spermatozoa


F. J. Peña, Department of Herd Health and Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Extremadura, Avd. de la Universidad s/n, 10071 Cáceres, Spain.


Detection of early changes in the sperm plasma membrane during cryopreservation is of utmost importance when designing freezing protocols and has previously been studied in the pig species using annexin-V detection of phosphatidylserine translocation. In the present study we designed a new assay to detect these changes in boar spermatozoa, based on the slight increase of sperm membrane permeability occurring during the early stages of cryoinjury, using the combination of three fluorescent probes, SNARF-1, YO-PRO-1 and ethidium homodimer. Four ejaculates from five different boars were frozen–thawed and flow cytometrically (FC) evaluated as paired samples. One of the samples was assayed using the annexin-V/propidium iodide staining and the other sample was evaluated using the new triple staining. Using this combination of probes, four sperm subpopulations were easily detected: viable, with stable membranes (SNARF-1 positive cells), and three with compromised membranes, one of YO-PRO-1+/Eth− cells, one ethidium homodimer+ spermatozoa and, finally spermatozoa stained both with YO-PRO-1 and ethidium homodimer (YO-PRO-1+/Eth+). The latter three categories corresponded to dead spermatozoa, but with different degree of membrane damage, being YO-PRO+/Eth− an earlier stage of membrane destabilization, (manifested by an increase in membrane permeability, while still maintaining membrane integrity) than YO-PRO+/Eth+. A method agreement analysis between both methods was performed revealing good agreement, although the percentage of live cells was 9.44% larger for the triple stain than the annexin-V assay. The new assay stained all sperm sub-populations present in the sample, making it especially suitable for both fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry, facilitating the exclusion of debris and egg-yolk particles when using FC.