Teratospermia (>60% of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa) is well documented in felids. Even morphologically normal spermatozoa from teratospermic ejaculates have reduced ability to undergo tyrosine phosphorylation, acrosome react, and bind and penetrate oocytes compared with normospermic (<40% abnormal spermatozoa) counterparts. However, it is unknown whether fertilization deficiencies originate at a nuclear level. This study examined whether fertilization failure also was attributable to abnormal sperm chromatin, using the sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Aliquots of unprocessed and swim-up-processed (to isolate morphologically normal spermatozoa) spermatozoa from teratospermic and normospermic domestic cats were analyzed by the flow cytometric SCSA. Swim-up-processed sperm were incubated with in vivo-matured oocytes or used for ICSI. Teratospermic ejaculates expressed more (P < 0.05) chromatin heterogeneity (abnormal chromatin structure) than their normospermic counterparts, both in unprocessed and swim-up-processed samples. Fertilization success in vitro was higher (P < 0.05) from normo- compared with teratospermic inseminates. Similar (P > 0.05) proportions of oocytes fertilized after ICSI using spermatozoa from normo- and teratospermic cats. Results reveal that teratospermia in the cat is expressed at the nuclear level as increased sperm chromatin heterogeneity, but ICSI showed that this does not apparently affect fertilization rates if the zona pellucida and oolemma can be bypassed.
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