After ejaculation, mammalian spermatozoa must undergo capacitation to fertilize. Capacitation of bovine spermatozoa occurs in vitro in medium supplemented with heparin. Semen cryopreservation is an important tool for assisted reproduction, although the fertility of frozen-thawed spermatozoa is reduced, possibly due to precocious capacitation-like changes that are known to occur. Our purpose was to clarify the mechanisms involved in bull sperm cryocapacitation induced by cryopreservation. Our general hypothesis is that the signaling pathways that lead to capacitation are triggered by the cryopreservation procedure. Ejaculated bovine semen was divided into two aliquots and diluted in extender; one was then kept fresh, whereas the second was cryopreserved. Western blots of extracted sperm proteins with anti-phosphotyrosine antibody showed that capacitation, induced by either heparin in fresh sperm or cryopreservation (cryocapacitation), is associated with a differential profile of phosphotyrosine-containing proteins. Immunolocalization of phosphotyrosine-containing proteins in the fresh and cryopreserved spermatozoa showed that, after thawing, cryocapacitated sperm displayed labeling over the acrosomal region, whereas for fresh sperm, this labeling appeared after 5-h incubation with heparin. The chlortetracycline assay and the ability of the sperm to undergo the lysophosphatidylcholine-induced acrosome reaction were used to confirm that a subpopulation of cryopreserved sperm is capacitated at thawing, irrespective of heparin inclusion. Since glucose is known to inhibit heparin-induced capacitation, the semen extender was modified to include glucose as a means of inhibiting cryocapacitation; however, cryocapacitation was not prevented according to the chlortetracycline assay and profile of phosphotyrosine-containing sperm proteins.
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