Though cryopreservation of mouse sperm yields good survival and motility after thawing, cryopreservation of rat sperm remains a challenge. This study was designed to evaluate the biophysics (membrane permeability) of rat in comparison to mouse to better understand the cooling rate response that contributes to cryopreservation success or failure in these two sperm types. In order to extract subzero membrane hydraulic permeability in the presence of ice, a differential scanning calorimeter (DSC) method was used. By analyzing rat and mouse sperm frozen at 5°C/min and 20°C/min, heat release signatures characteristic of each sperm type were obtained and correlated to cellular dehydration. The dehydration response was then fit to a model of cellular water transport (dehydration) by adjusting cell-specific biophysical (membrane hydraulic permeability) parameters Lpg and ELp. A “combined fit” (to 5°C/min and 20°C/min data) for rat sperm in Biggers-Whitten-Whittingham media yielded Lpg = 0.007 μm min−1 atm−1 and ELp = 17.8 kcal/mol, and in egg yolk cryopreservation media yielded Lpg = 0.005 μm min−1 atm−1 and ELp = 14.3 kcal/mol. These parameters, especially the activation energy, were found to be lower than previously published parameters for mouse sperm. In addition, the biophysical responses in mouse and rat sperm were shown to depend on the constituents of the cryopreservation media, in particular egg yolk and glycerol. Using these parameters, optimal cooling rates for cryopreservation were predicted for each sperm based on a criteria of 5%–15% normalized cell water at −30°C during freezing in cryopreservation media. These predicted rates range from 53°C/min to 70°C/min and from 28°C/min to 36°C/min in rat and mouse, respectively. These predictions were validated by comparison to experimentally determined cryopreservation outcomes, in this case based on motility. Maximum motility was obtained with freezing rates between 50°C/min and 80°C/min for rat and at 20°C/min with a sharp drop at 50°C/min for mouse. In summary, DSC experiments on mouse and rat sperm yielded a difference in membrane permeability parameters in the two sperm types that, when implemented in a biophysical model of water transport, reasonably predict different optimal cooling rate outcomes for each sperm after cryopreservation.
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Vol. 81 • No. 4