Osmotic tolerance of rabbit spermatozoa is affected by extender composition and temperature

Sperm osmotic adaptability to anisosmotic conditions is important for sperm epididymal maturation, motility activation at ejaculation, and female tract colonization, or for conducting technological procedures such as cryopreservation. Several factors affect this adaptability, including the fluid composition that contributes to water flow dynamics, and the temperature at which osmotic stress is initiated. This study was designed to investigate the effect of medium composition (electrolyte- or sugar-based extender) and temperature (25 and 5 °C) on rabbit sperm adaptability to anisosmotic conditions. Rabbit spermatozoa, therefore, were diluted at both temperatures (25 and 5 °C) in electrolyte- or sugar-based media at increasing osmotic conditions (100 to 1,000 mOsm/kg), and values for sperm variables (sperm kinetics, membrane integrity, mitochondrial membrane potential) were estimated as endpoints. Sperm kinetics seemed to be more sensitive to osmotic stress than membrane integrity or mitochondrial function. The effect of moderate hypoosmotic stress did not differ when there was use of sugar- and electrolyte-based extenders at 25 °C (P > 0.05). In hyper-tonic conditions at 25 °C, the sugar-based extender was more effective in protecting sperm membrane integrity and mitochondrial function (P < 0.05). The lesser temperature made the differences more relevant because of the detrimental effect of hyperosmotic stress was more evident in the electrolyte-based extender at 5 °C (P < 0.05). The results from this study indicated rabbit spermatozoa have different adaptability to anisosmotic conditions induced by sugar- and electrolyte-based media and that the temperature at which the osmotic stress is initiated affects the cellular response.

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