Summary. The fertility of spermatozoa from the different epididymal segments of hamsters was tested by in-vivo insemination. Caput and proximal corpus spermatozoa were non-fertile; spermatozoa from the distal corpus epididymidis fertilized 13% (38/290) oocytes and those from the proximal and distal cauda epididymidis 71 and 87%, respectively. When tested by in-vitro insemination, distal corpus spermatozoa penetrated 44% of oocytes while those from the distal cauda fertilized 87% of oocytes. Spermatozoa from the distal corpus recovered in Medium BMOC fertilized 13% (28/219) of oocytes in vivo, while those mixed with an epididymal protein preparation (0·8 mg protein/ml) fertilized 24% (49/204; P < 0·01) of oocytes.
When distal corpus spermatozoa were inseminated in vivo with 0·8 mg epididymal protein preparation 34% (31/90) oocytes were fertilized and only 22% (23/103; P < 0·05) oocytes were fertilized when the proteins were obtained from epididymides of animals castrated for 30 days. When distal corpus spermatozoa were preincubated for 5 h in medium without (control) or with protein preparation (0·8 or 1·6 mg protein/ml), a significant increase in in-vitro oocyte penetration was found (25 compared with 45%; P < 0·05) when the protein was present at 1·6 mg/ml.
These results confirm and extend previous observations suggesting a role for androgen-dependent glycoproteins secreted by the epididymis in the acquisition of fertilizing ability that occurs during sperm maturation.
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