Mitigation of sperm tail abnormalities using demembranation approach in the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

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Clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) produced high proportion of abnormal spermatozoa (mainly tail defects) that can limit sperm movement and conception. The study aimed to better identify the origin of those defects using a demembranation approach. Ejaculates (1–2 ejaculations/male; n = 9) were allocated to simple washing (control; resulting in 11.7% ± 1.9% coiled tails) and processed through colloid centrifugation to reduce the number of sperm with tail defects (treatment, resulting in 5.9% ± 0.9% coiled tails). Aliquots of semen were incubated in hypo-osmotic solution (HOS, 60 mOsm fructose solution) containing 5 mM dithiothreitol (DTT) (a reducing agent) to prevent oxidation of sperm membrane. Thereafter, 20% Triton X-100 (TX) (a detergent) was added to the HOS/DTT-treated samples. After HOS/DTT incubation, the control samples and sperm-selected samples presented 73.4% ± 3.1% and 73.9% ± 2.5% swollen sperm (bent and coiled) indicating membrane intact, respectively. Most of the coiled tail in the raw ejaculates could not be opened by TX indicating that the cause of coiled sperm tails may be from testicular origin. The proportion of sperm with tightly coiled tail tended to be lower in the sperm-selected group than control group (18.8% ± 3.8% and 26.5% ± 3.4%; p = .1), whereas the sperm opened up by TX tended to be higher in the sperm-selected group (53.6% ± 10.4% and 21.1% ± 7.9%; p = .06). The results indicated TX was able to uncoil half of the tightly coiled sperm in the semen undergone preparation. In conclusion, the coiled sperm in the clouded leopard semen were likely not a defect of sperm volume regulation during post-ejaculate (osmotic swelling) but pre-ejaculate origin. Semen preparation demonstrated its ability to lessen the primary sperm defects and selected spermatozoa that were prone to be mitigated after demembranation.

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