Current Knowledge on the Transport and Fate of Spermatozoa in the Reproductive Tract of the Bitch

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ContentsCanine sperm transport, distribution, storage and detachment is a complex, dynamic and highly regulated process. Transport of sperm within the bitch's reproductive tract is rapid and is influenced by the method of semen deposition (natural mating or artificial insemination) and by the timing of breeding in relation to the day of ovulation. The fertile lifespan of spermatozoa in the reproductive tract of the bitch is considerably longer than in most other domestic species, and the main sperm reservoirs appear to be the uterine crypts and the distal part of the uterotubal junction, where spermatozoa attach by their heads to uterine epithelium. While several in vitro studies demonstrated prolonged motility and viability of canine spermatozoa after coincubation with uterine tube explants, spermatozoal storage has not been documented in the canine uterine tube isthmus or ampulla in vivo. Several factors, including exposure to progesterone, solubilized zona pellucida proteins and post-ovulation uterine tube fluid, appear to trigger membrane events resulting in capacitation-like changes with subsequent motility pattern changes (transitional and hyperactivated) that are associated with sperm detachment. After mating or insemination, a normal low-magnitude post-mating uterine inflammatory response occurs, evidenced by an influx of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs), increased uterine contractions and an increased uterine artery blood flow. Recently, it was also shown that normal dogs with cystic endometrial hyperplasia develop a more significant endometritis, show fewer mating-induced uterine contractions, a decreased ability of spermatozoa to bind to uterine explants in vitro and a slower uterine clearance after mating.

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