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Florencia Ardon and Susan S Suarez

Artificial insemination with frozen semen allows affordable, worldwide dissemination of gametes with superior genetics. Nevertheless, sperm are damaged by the cryopreservation process. Elucidating the molecular effects of cryopreservation on sperm could suggest methods for improving fertility of frozen/thawed semen. This study was undertaken to examine the effect of cryopreservation on the coating of sperm by binder of sperm (BSP) proteins in seminal plasma. BSP proteins are secreted by the seminal vesicles and coat the surface of sperm by partially intercalating into the outer leaflet of the sperm plasma membrane. The BSP proteins are known to play roles in the formation of the oviductal sperm storage reservoir and in sperm capacitation. We investigated the effects of cryopreservation on the sperm BSP protein coat using Bovipure to separate live sperm from extended semen and then assaying the amounts of BSP proteins on sperm using quantitative western blotting with custom-made antibodies against unique sequences of each BSP protein. Greater amounts of all three BSP proteins (BSP1, BSP3, and BSP5) were detected on frozen/thawed sperm than on fresh sperm. Furthermore, the reduction of BSP3 from 15 to 13 kDa in mass, which occurs during incubation of sperm under mild capacitating conditions, was enhanced by cryopreservation. We concluded that freezing alters the BSP protein coating on sperm, which could account in part for reduced fertility of cryopreserved semen samples.

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Fernando F Migone, Pei-hsuan Hung, Robert G Cowan, Vimal Selvaraj, Susan S Suarez and Susan M Quirk

The influence of the hedgehog signaling pathway on reproduction was studied in transgenic mice in which a dominant active allele of the hedgehog signal transducer, smoothened (Smo), was conditionally expressed in the developing Müllerian duct and gonads through recombination mediated by anti-Müllerian hormone receptor 2-cre (Amhr2 cre). Previous studies showed that development of the oviduct and uterus are abnormal in female Amhr2 cre/+ SmoM2 mice. In the current study, focusing on mutant males, litter size was reduced 53% in crosses with wild-type females. An extra band of undifferentiated tissue extended along each epididymis and vas deferens, a position suggesting derivation from Müllerian ducts that failed to regress fully. Hedgehog signaling was elevated in this tissue, based on mRNA levels of target genes. Amhr2 mRNA was dramatically reduced in the uterus of mutant females and in the extra tissue in the tract of mutant males, suggesting that AMHR2 signaling was inadequate for complete Müllerian duct regression. Spermatogenesis and sperm motility were normal, but testis weight was reduced 37% and epididymal sperm number was reduced 36%. The number of sperm recovered from the uteri of wild-type females after mating with mutant males was reduced 78%. This suggested that sperm transport through the male tract was reduced, resulting in fewer sperm in the ejaculate. Consistent with this, mutant males had unusually tortuous vas deferentia with constrictions within the lumen. We concluded that persistence of a relatively undifferentiated remnant of Müllerian tissue is sufficient to cause subtle changes in the male reproductive tract that reduce fertility.

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Ihshan Akthar, Susan S Suarez, Vernadyn A Morillo, Motoki Sasaki, Mohamed A Ezz, Ken-ichi Takahashi, Masayuki Shimada, Mohamed A Marey and Akio Miyamoto

We previously reported that sperm binding to cultured monolayers of bovine uterine epithelial cells induces an acute inflammatory response involving the Toll-like receptor (TLR2) signaling pathway. This response serves to clear the uterus of sperm and thereby prepares the endometrium for implantation. The endometrium is lined by surface epithelial cells; however, epithelial cells also line uterine glands. To investigate the source of the immune response, we used an explant model. Explants of bovine endometrium were incubated with bull sperm illuminated by JC1 fluorescent labeling in their mitochondria. The sperm glided over the surface epithelium until they encountered and entered uterine glands, where they remained. Scanning electron microscopy of explants revealed polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs) in uterine glands along with sperm. In the absence of sperm, PMNs were not seen in glands. The incubation of sperm with explants resulted in an acute inflammatory response, seen as the upregulation of mRNA expression of IL8, TNFA, IL1B, PGES and TLR2 in whole explants, as well as increased TNFA protein expression in uterine glands. TLR1/2 antagonist reduced sperm numbers in the glands and inhibited the increase of TNFA. Our observations suggest that uterine glands serve as a site where sperm interact with the uterine epithelium to trigger the innate immune response to clear excess sperm from the uterus.