The Correlation of Sperm Chromatin Decondensation Following In Vitro Exposure to Heparin and Sperm Penetration Rates

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the possible correlation of low-dose heparin-induced decondensation of sperm chromatin with sperm concentration, motility, morphology, membrane hypoosmotic response, ejaculate volume, and the ability of sperm to penetrate zona-free hamster oocytes.


Twenty-two donors of known fertility and 105 patients undergoing evaluation at an andrology laboratory were evaluated by standard World Health Organization semen analysis techniques and a modified sperm penetration assay (SPA). An aliquot was also incubated for 60 min and Ham's F10 medium containing 50 USP/ml heparin. The percentage of sperm undergoing chromatin decondensation was evaluated and correlated to SPA rates and semen quality parameters.


No significant correlation was observed between semen parameters and decondensation rates. A nonsignificant (P = 0.11) inverse correlation (P = −0.21) was observed between SPA rates and chromatin decondensation. Significant (P < 0.001) differences were observed in the decondensation rate of donors (3.7 ± 0.6), patients with normal SPA rates (7.8 ± 1.5), and patients with decreased SPA rates (21.7 ± 1.8). The decondensation rates were significantly different (P < 0.01) between patients with a normal SPA rate and patients with a decreased SPA rate.


These data indicate a significant inverse relationship between the SPA rate, which has previously been shown to correlate highly with fertilization ability, and heparin-induced sperm chromatin decondensation.

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