Characterization of Phosphatidylserine Expression in Bovine Sperm
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Many factors influence male fertility, and conventional fertility evaluations are not able to reliably identify sub-fertile animals. The overall goal of this work was to explore the expression of phosphatidylserine (PS) on bovine sperm and investigate what factors may impact it, as previous research demonstrated that phosphatidylserine (PS) plays a role in murine fertilization. Despite conventionally being an apoptotic marker, it is present on viable and fertilization-competent murine sperm, however, less is known of the possible role of PS in bovine fertilization. In experiment 1, viable bovine sperm cells expressing PS were identified and PS levels in fresh and frozen semen were compared. Phosphatidylserine levels in frozen samples were significantly less than in fresh samples. We conclude that the cryopreservation process has an impact on PS expression in sperm by altering the proportion of sperm cells which are capable of fertilization. Experiment 2 examined PS levels in bulls with varying fertility levels based on sire conception rate (SCR). There was no difference in PS levels between high and low fertility bulls. There was a significant difference in PS levels of uncapacitated samples and those capacitated for one hour. These results warrant further investigation into the role of phosphatidylserine in bovine fertilization.
General Audience Abstract
Improving the fertility of cattle is incredibly important to meet ever-growing consumer demands for animal protein. Researchers and producers can utilize a variety of reproductive technologies to improve their herds' reproductive efficiency. Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a glycerophospholipid which makes up a part of all cellular plasma membranes. Typically, it is used as a marker for cell death or apoptosis, however, some cells expose it on their surface temporarily while still viable, including sperm. Phosphatidylserine was found to be exposed on sperm from mice that were still viable and able to fertilize oocytes. Following that, the expression of PS in bovine sperm was investigated. Using bulls as a model, fresh semen was collected and analyzed for the level of PS expression then frozen and reanalyzed. We saw that there was a significant decrease in the level of PS expression in sperm that had been previously frozen, possibly due to damage to their membranes during the freezing process. Frozen semen from beef bulls with either high or low fertility was also analyzed. No difference was observed between bulls with varying levels of fertility. Addressing fertility issues in bulls is a complicated and multi-faceted issue which requires the use of many technologies and fertility markers. Further developing the knowledge of PS exposure in bulls and its relation to fertility and fertilization is worthwhile to attempt to improve the reproductive efficiency of cattle herds.
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