Mitochondrial DNA Copy Number in Spermatozoa of Fertile Stallions

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Abstract

Contents

Predicting male fertility on non-invasive sperm traits is of big importance to human and animal reproduction strategies. Combining the wide range of parameters monitored by computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA) with some molecular traits (e.g. mtDNA content) may help to identify markers of the male fertility. The aim of this study was to characterize variation in the mtDNA copy number in equine sperm and to investigate whether mtDNA content is correlated with quality traits of stallion spermatozoa and the age of the male. Ejaculates collected from 53 fertile stallions were divided into four age groups (3–5, 6–10, 11–14 and >15 years) and were subjected to a complex investigation including conventional analysis, CASA, flow cytometry and mtDNA content (real-time PCR). The mean (±SD) number of mtDNA copies equalled 14 ± 9 and varied from 3 to 64. Considering the great number of sperm parameters monitored in this study, only few of them were correlated with the mtDNA content: ejaculate volume (a positive correlation), the amplitude of lateral head displacement (ALH; a negative correlation) and the high mitochondrial activity index (a negative correlation). The stallion age was not correlated with the mtDNA copy number. This study provides the first set of data on mtDNA content in equine sperm and confirms phenomena previously described for humans and dog on associations between sperm mtDNA content and selected motility parameters monitored by the CASA. Basing our study on spermatozoa from fertile stallions could however limit the extent of detected associations.

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