Sperm storage within the oviductal isthmus prior to ovulation typically involves binding to oviductal epithelial cells, which are thought to modulate sperm functions including internal calcium concentration, membrane fluidity, and motility. Around the time of ovulation the spermatozoa are gradually released so that they eventually encounter the oocytes within the oviductal ampulla. Previous studies have shown that the oviductal epithelial cells selectively sequester high quality spermatozoa, but the role of oviductal fluid as a selective modulator of sperm function has been investigated to a lesser extent. Here we address the hypothesis that oviductal fluid is also likely to modulate sperm function. Using samples of porcine oviductal fluid collected in the follicular phase of the estrus cycle, we show that short exposure (20 min to 50 microg/mL of oviductal fluid proteins) to either of two separate proteins fractions (> or < 100 kDa) promotes boar sperm viability and acrosomal integrity, decreases sperm plasma membrane fluidity (measured using merocyanine S540), and increases zona binding and polyspermy during in vitro fertilization. Exposure to the lower molecular fraction significantly inhibited, but did not abolish, the bicarbonate-induced stimulation of motility. The results show that subpopulations of spermatozoa respond differentially to oviductal fluid, and suggest that exposure to oviductal fluid in vivo could exert a further level of functional sperm selection.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2010|