The widespread production of mice with transgenes, disrupted genes and mutant genes, has strained the resources available for maintaining these mouse lines as live populations, and dependable methods for gamete and embryo preservation in these lines are needed. Here we report the results of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with spermatozoa freeze-dried or frozen without a cryoprotectant after storage for periods up to 1.5 years. Freeze-dried samples were stored at 4°C. Samples frozen without cryoprotection were maintained at −196°C. After storage, spermatozoa were injected into the oocytes by ICSI. Zygotic chromosomes and fetal development at Day 15 of gestation were examined after 0, 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 mo of sperm storage. When fresh spermatozoa were used for ICSI, 96% of resultant zygotes contained normal chromosomes, and 58% of two-cell embryos transferred developed to normal viable fetuses. Similar results were obtained when spermatozoa were frozen without cryoprotection and then used for ICSI (87% and 45%, respectively; P > 0.05) and after 12 mo of sperm storage (mean of six endpoints examined: 87% and 52%, respectively; P > 0.05). Freeze-drying decreased the proportion of zygotes with normal karyoplates (75% vs. 96%; P < 0.001) and the proportion of embryos that developed into fetuses (35% vs. 58%; P < 0.001), but similar to freezing, there was no further deterioration during 12 mo of storage (mean of six endpoints examined: 68% and 34%, respectively; P > 0.05). Live offspring were obtained from both freeze-dried and frozen spermatozoa after storage for 1.5 yr. The results indicate that 1) the freeze-drying procedure itself causes some abnormalities in spermatozoa but freezing without cryoprotection does not and 2) long-term storage of both frozen and freeze-dried spermatozoa is not deleterious to their genetic integrity. Freezing without cryoprotection is highly successful, simple, and efficient but, like all routine sperm storage methods, requires liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is also required for freeze-drying, but sperm can then be stored at 4°C and shipped at ambient temperatures. Both preservation methods are successful, but rapid freezing without cryoprotection is the preferred method for preservation of spermatozoa from mouse strains carrying unique genes and mutations.
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