Spontaneous generation of reactive oxygen species and effect on motility and fertilizability of sea urchin spermatozoa

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Abstract

Summary

We investigated the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by spermatozoa in two species of sea urchin. ROS generation was accompanied by the initiation of motility and respiration and influenced the motility and fertilizability of spermatozoa. The sea urchin performs external fertilization in aerobic seawater. Sperm motility was initiated after spawning through Na+/H+ exchange. ROS generation was dependent on the respiration and sperm concentration and its generation was first observed at initiation of motility, via activation of respiration through ATP/ADP transport. The ROS generation rate increased at higher dilution ratios of spermatozoa, in a manner that was synchronous with the respiratory rate. This phenomenon resembled the previously defined ‘sperm dilution effect’ on respiration. The loss of motility and fertilizability was induced not only by treatment with hydrogen peroxide but also by sperm dilution. Storage of spermatozoa with a higher dilution ratio also accelerated the decrease in fertilizability. Thus, optimum sea urchin fertilizability is maintained by storage of undiluted spermatozoa on ice, in order to minimize oxidative stress and to maximize longevity.

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