Summary. Volunteer women requesting laparoscopic sterilization were subjected to a fixed schedule of ovulation induction and oocyte recovery. Follicle aspiration was carried out in four groups: those to whom hCG was not administered and 12, 24 or 36 h respectively after the administration of hCG. For each group oocytes were cultured in vitro for 42 h, 30 h, 18 h and 6 h respectively, before insemination with donor spermatozoa. Oocyte recovery rates improved with longer hCG-to-recovery intervals (36% with no hCG to 81% 36 h after hCG). Although there was a slight reduction in fertilization rates when oocytes were not exposed to hCG in the follicle, normal cleavage was noted in more than 50% of oocytes in all four groups. It therefore appears that the final maturation stages of the human oocyte are not dependent on the midcycle gonadotrophin surge, provided the oocyte is matured in vitro before insemination. However, it was also evident that the fertilization rates were reduced when oocytes were removed from less mature follicles, as reflected by high androstenedione/ oestradiol ratios.
A. A. Templeton, P. Van Look, R. E. Angell, R. J. Aitken, M. A. Lumsden and D. T. Baird
B J Houston, B Nixon, B V King, G N De Iuliis and R J Aitken
Mobile phone usage has become an integral part of our lives. However, the effects of the radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR) emitted by these devices on biological systems and specifically the reproductive systems are currently under active debate. A fundamental hindrance to the current debate is that there is no clear mechanism of how such non-ionising radiation influences biological systems. Therefore, we explored the documented impacts of RF-EMR on the male reproductive system and considered any common observations that could provide insights on a potential mechanism. Among a total of 27 studies investigating the effects of RF-EMR on the male reproductive system, negative consequences of exposure were reported in 21. Within these 21 studies, 11 of the 15 that investigated sperm motility reported significant declines, 7 of 7 that measured the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) documented elevated levels and 4 of 5 studies that probed for DNA damage highlighted increased damage due to RF-EMR exposure. Associated with this, RF-EMR treatment reduced the antioxidant levels in 6 of 6 studies that discussed this phenomenon, whereas consequences of RF-EMR were successfully ameliorated with the supplementation of antioxidants in all 3 studies that carried out these experiments. In light of this, we envisage a two-step mechanism whereby RF-EMR is able to induce mitochondrial dysfunction leading to elevated ROS production. A continued focus on research, which aims to shed light on the biological effects of RF-EMR will allow us to test and assess this proposed mechanism in a variety of cell types.
K S Sidhu, K E Mate, T Gunasekera, D Veal, L Hetherington, M A Baker, R J Aitken and J C Rodger
The phosphorylation of tyrosine residues in cellular proteins is a major signal transduction event during sperm capacitation. In this study protein phosphorylation was monitored using a fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-labeled antiphosphotyrosine monoclonal antibody and a flow cytometric procedure optimized for sperm. Using this technique, the correlation between tyrosine phosphorylation and sperm capacitation was examined in two marsupial species, the brushtail possum and the tammar wallaby and compared with that of ram spermatozoa. The levels of tyrosine phosphorylation in sperm from all three species were increased by the addition of cyclic AMP (cAMP) and vandate, a phosphotyrosine phosphatase inhibitor and were decreased by the addition of the phosphotyrosine kinase inhibitor, staurosporine. Oviductal conditioned media (CM) induced a progressive increase in tyrosine phosphorylation in both marsupial species and also induced morphological transition from a streamlined to a ‘T’-shape configuration in brushtail possum spermatozoa but not in tammar wallaby spermatozoa. Transition to the ‘T’-shape orientation associated with capacitation in marsupial spermatozoa was observed by 2 h of incubation in both species when tyrosine phosphorylation was increased by higher levels of cAMP i.e. 5 mM dibutyryl cAMP plus 3 mM pentoxyphylline. Thus the tyrosine phosphorylation trigger with CM may differ in these two marsupial species. Ram sperm tyrosine phosphorylation could be increased by addition of lower levels of cAMP (1 mM). These results support the finding that tyrosine phosphorylation is associated with sperm capacitation in marsupials. Similar results were obtained by using SDS PAGE/Western blot analysis of tyrosine phosphorylation in the brushtail possum spermatozoa. The specificity, efficiency and sensitivity of the procedure described here make it applicable for routine assessment of capacitation in large numbers of samples and in other species.
Miguel J Xavier, Lisa A Mitchell, Kristen E McEwan, Rodney J Scott and R John Aitken
The Big Blue λSelect-cII selection system has been employed along with whole-exome sequencing to examine the susceptibility of the male germ line to mutation in two challenging situations (i) exposure to a chemotherapeutic regime including bleomycin, etoposide and cis-platinum (BEP) and (ii) the ageing process. A 3-week exposure to BEP induced complete azoospermia associated with a loss of developing germ cells and extensive vacuolization of Sertoli cell cytoplasm. Following cessation of treatment, spermatozoa first appeared in the caput epididymis after 6 weeks and by 12 weeks motile spermatozoa could be recovered from the cauda, although the count (P < 0.001) and motility (P < 0.01) of these cells were significantly reduced and superoxide generation was significantly elevated (P < 0.001). Despite this increase in free radical generation, no evidence of chromatin instability was detected in these spermatozoa. Furthermore, embryos obtained from females mated at this 12-week time point showed no evidence of an increased mutational load. Similarly, progressive ageing of Big Blue mice had no impact on the quality of the spermatozoa, fertility or mutation frequency in the offspring despite a significant increase in the mutational load carried by somatic tissues such as the liver (P < 0.05). We conclude that the male germ line is highly resistant to mutation in keeping with the disposable soma hypothesis, which posits that genetic integrity in the germ cells will be maintained at the expense of the soma, in light of the former’s sentinel position in safeguarding the stability of the genome.
Neil A Youngson, G Mezbah Uddin, Abhirup Das, Carl Martinez, Haley S Connaughton, Sara Whiting, Josephine Yu, David A Sinclair, R John Aitken and Margaret J Morris
Male fertility and sperm quality are negatively impacted by obesity. Furthermore, recent evidence has shown that male offspring from obese rat mothers also have reduced sperm quality and fertility. Here, we extend work in this area by comparing the effects of both maternal obesity and offspring post-weaning diet-induced obesity, as well as their combination, on sperm quality in mice. We additionally tested whether administration of the NAD+-booster nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) can ameliorate the negative effects of obesity and maternal obesity on sperm quality. We previously showed that intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of NMN can reduce the metabolic deficits induced by maternal obesity or post-weaning dietary obesity in mice. In this study, female mice were fed a high-fat diet (HFD) for 6 weeks until they were 18% heavier than a control diet group. Thereafter, HFD and control female mice were mated with control diet males, and male offspring were weaned into groups receiving control or HFD. At 30 weeks of age, mice received 500 mg/kg body weight NMN or vehicle PBS i.p. for 21 days. As expected, adiposity was increased by both maternal and post-weaning HFD but reduced by NMN supplementation. Post-weaning HFD reduced sperm count and motility, while maternal HFD increased offspring sperm DNA fragmentation and levels of aberrant sperm chromatin. There was no evidence that the combination of post-weaning and maternal HFD exacerbated the impacts in sperm quality suggesting that they impact spermatogenesis through different mechanisms. Surprisingly NMN reduced sperm count, vitality and increased sperm oxidative DNA damage, which was associated with increased NAD+ in testes. A subsequent experiment using oral NMN at 400 mg/kg body weight was not associated with reduced sperm viability, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction or increased NAD+ in testes, suggesting that the negative impacts on sperm could be dependent on dose or mode of administration.