Summary. The motility characteristics of washed spermatozoa from 50 normal ejaculates were measured by time-lapse photography, before and after cryopreservation. Plasma membrane integrity was assessed by the hypo-osmotic swelling test and with the supravital fluorescent dye bisbenzimide (H33258).
There was a marked decline in the percentage of progressively motile spermatozoa after cryopreservation, the extent varying widely among donors. Results were, however, consistent between different ejaculates from the same individual. The ability of spermatozoa to survive cryopreservation could not be predicted from the properties of the semen beforehand.
The mean velocity of the spermatozoa was significantly reduced after freezing, but the lateral head displacement was unaltered. There was a significant reduction in the proportion of spermatozoa with intact plasma membranes after cryopreservation and the results of the hypo-osmotic swelling test and H33258 tests correlated closely. There was no correlation between the declines in the percentage of motile spermatozoa, or intact spermatozoa and the sperm velocity.
We conclude that membrane rupture is not the sole cause of loss of motile spermatozoa during freezing and that the decrease in the proportion of motile spermatozoa is caused, at least in part, by a separate process from that responsible for the decrease in the average swimming speed of spermatozoa.
Keywords: spermatozoa; cryopreservation; motility; membranes; semen; donor insemination; human