When cholesterol is added to sperm membranes before cryopreservation, higher percentages of motile and viable cells are recovered after thawing. However, because one of the first steps in sperm capacitation is cholesterol efflux from the sperm plasma membrane, adding cholesterol to enhance cryosurvival may retard sperm capacitation. These studies evaluated the ability of sperm treated with cholesterol-loaded cyclodextrins (CLC) to capacitate, acrosome react, and fertilize oocytes. Control (non-CLC-treated) and CLC-treated sperm were treated with heparin, dilauroylphosphatidylcholine (PC12), or calcium ionophore A23187 (A23187) to capacitate and induce the acrosome reaction. Sperm capacitation, assessed by an increase in intracellular calcium level, and acrosome-reacted sperm were measured using flow cytometry. Fresh CLC-treated sperm cells underwent capacitation and/or the acrosome reaction at rates different from control samples, and the differences detected were dependent on the method used to induce sperm capacitation and the acrosome reaction. After cryopreservation, however, CLC-treated and control sperm underwent capacitation and the acrosome reaction at similar rates regardless of the method used to induce capacitation and the acrosome reaction. The primary concern for CLC-treated sperm, however, is whether this treatment would affect in vitro or in vivo fertility. Adding either control or CLC-treated cryopreserved sperm to bovine oocytes in vitro resulted in similar oocyte cleavage rates and blastocyst formation rates. In addition, when inseminated into heifers, pregnancy rates for control and CLC-treated sperm were also similar. Therefore, treating bull sperm with CLC permits greater numbers of sperm to survive cryopreservation while preserving the fertilizing potential of each individual sperm.
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