Different patterns of metabolic cryo-damage in domestic cat (Felis catus) and cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) spermatozoa

  • April 1, 2012
  • by K.A. Terrell, D.E. Wildt, N.M. Anthony, B.D. Bavister, S.P. Leibo, L.M. Penfold, Marker L. L., A.E Crosier


Felid spermatozoa are sensitive to cryopreservation-induced damage, but functional losses can be mitigated by post-thaw swim-up or density gradient processing methods that selectively recover motile or structurally-normal spermatozoa, respectively. Despite the importance of sperm energy production to achieving fertilization, there is little knowledge about the influence of cryopreservation or post-thaw processing on felid sperm metabolism. We conducted a comparative study of domestic cat and cheetah sperm metabolism after cryopreservation and post-thaw processing. We hypothesized that freezing/thawing impairs sperm metabolism and that swim-up, but not density gradient centrifugation, recovers metabolically-normal spermatozoa. Ejaculates were cryopreserved, thawed, and processed by swim-up, Accudenz gradient centrifugation, or conventional washing (representing the ‘control’). Sperm glucose and pyruvate uptake, lactate production, motility, and acrosomal integrity were assessed. Mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP) was measured in cat spermatozoa. In both species, lactate production, motility, and acrosomal integrity were reduced in post-thaw, washed samples compared to freshly-collected ejaculates. Glucose uptake was minimal pre- and post-cryopreservation, whereas pyruvate uptake was similar between treatments due to high coefficients of variation. In the cat, swim-up, but not Accudenz processing, recovered spermatozoa with increased lactate production, pyruvate uptake, and motility compared to controls. Although confounded by differences in non-specific fluorescence among processing methods, MMP values within treatments were positively correlated to sperm motility and acrosomal integrity. Cheetah spermatozoa isolated by either selection method exhibited improved motility and/or acrosomal integrity, but remained metabolically compromised. Collectively, findings revealed a metabolically-robust subpopulation of cryopreserved cat, but not cheetah, spermatozoa, recovered by selecting for motility rather than morphology.

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