Over the past 60 years, egg yolk (EY) has been routinely used in both liquid semen extenders and those used to cryopreserve sperm. However, the mechanism by which EY protects sperm during liquid storage or from freezing damage is unknown. Bovine seminal plasma contains a family of proteins designated BSP-A1/-A2, BSP-A3, and BSP-30-kDa (collectively called BSP proteins). These proteins are secretory products of seminal vesicles that are acquired by sperm at ejaculation, modifying the sperm membrane by inducing cholesterol efflux. Because cholesterol efflux is time and concentration dependent, continuous exposure to seminal plasma (SP) that contains BSP proteins may be detrimental to the sperm membrane, which may adversely affect the ability of sperm to be preserved. In this article, we show that the BSP proteins bind to the low-density fraction (LDF), a lipoprotein component of the EY extender. The binding is rapid, specific, saturable, and stable even after freeze-thawing of semen. Furthermore, LDF has a very high capacity for BSP protein binding. The binding of BSP proteins to LDF may prevent their detrimental effect on sperm membrane, and this may be crucial for sperm storage. Thus, we propose that the sequestration of BSP proteins of SP by LDF may represent the major mechanism of sperm protection by EY.
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