Sperm with abnormalities in the position and shape of the head were obtained from the azh/azh mutant and injected into the cytoplasm of mature mouse oocytes to determine whether sperm from the offspring display both head (club shape) and tail (looping, folding, and fusion) abnormalities observed in the mutant donor. Although quantitative differences were observed among the three examined offspring, we found that abnormalities in sperm head shape were less frequent than in the donor mutant, but that tail malformations predominated. In addition, we found that the frequency of tail abnormalities increased during sperm epididymal transit. A typical defect was the multiple folding of the sperm tail and eventual fusion of closely apposed plasma membranes. As a consequence, sperm forward motility and natural fertility were compromised. Results of this study indicate that the azh/azh mutant and offspring generated by intracytoplasmic sperm injection provide a valuable model for determining the role of the manchette and keratin-containing outer dense fibers and fibrous sheath during spermiogenesis. Furthermore, our findings stress the risk of enhancing a phenotypic abnormality caused by mutant male genotypes introduced through bypassing the biologic mechanisms of natural sperm selection during fertilization.
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