Successful cryopreservation requires cells to tolerate volume excursions experienced during permeating cryoprotectant equilibration and during cooling and warming. However, prior studies have demonstrated that mouse spermatozoa are extremely sensitive to osmotically induced volume changes. A series of three experiments were conducted 1) to test the efficacy of two commonly used extender media components, egg yolk (EY) and skim milk (SM), in broadening the osmotic tolerance limits (OTL) of ICR and B6C3F1 murine spermatozoa; 2) to determine if the extender components affected sperm plasma membrane permeability coefficients for water and cryoprotective agent (CPA) characteristics; and 3) to test the effects of permeating and nonpermeating CPA on mouse sperm morphology. In experiment 1, sperm samples were added to 150, 225, 300, 450, or 600 mOsm NaCl, EY, SM, sucrose, or choline chloride at 22°C and then returned to isosmotic conditions. In experiment 2, epididymal sperm were preequilibrated in 1 M glycerol (Gly) or 2 M ethylene glycol (EG) prepared in SM extender, abruptly exposed to isosmotic conditions at 22, 15, or 2°C, and the corresponding volume excursions were measured and analyzed. In experiment 3, the effects of permeating CPA (0.3 M EG or dimethyl sulfoxide) or nonpermeating CPA (12% sucrose or 18% raffinose) on sperm morphology (i.e., principle midpiece folding and putative membrane fusion) were evaluated. Experiment 1 showed that spermatozoa from ICR and B6C3F1 mice have effectively broader OTL when exposed to EY or SM extenders. The results of experiment 2 indicated that, for ICR sperm, the activation energy (Ea) for the hydraulic conductivity (Lp) was unchanged in SM extender. However, for B6C3F1 sperm, there were significant differences in Ea of Lp in the presence of Gly and EG. The result of experiment 3 indicated that permeating CPAs damage sperm membrane integrity, causing a high frequency of head-to-tail or tail-to-tail membrane fusion, whereas this occurrence in the presence of nonpermeating CPA was less than 3%. Finally, the results of experiments 1 and 2 were combined in a mathematical model to predict Gly and EG addition and removal in the presence of SM extender, which would prevent mouse sperm membrane damage. These predictions indicated that, for ICR sperm, both Gly and EG may be added and removed in a single step. However, for B6C3F1 spermatozoa, Gly required a two-step addition while EG only required a single step. For removal from B6C3F1 sperm, Gly required a three-step removal process while EG required a two-step removal.
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