Culture of somatic cells isolated from frozen-thawed equine semen using fluorescence-assisted cell sorting.
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Nuclear transfer using somatic cells from frozen semen (FzSC) would allow cloning of animals for which no other genetic material is available. Horses are one of the few species for which cloning is commercially feasible; despite this, there is no information available on the culture of equine FzSC. After preliminary trials on equine FzSC, recovered by density-gradient centrifugation, resulted in no growth, we hypothesized that sperm in the culture system negatively affected cell proliferation. Therefore, we evaluated culture of FzSC isolated using fluorescence-assisted cell sorting. In Exp. 1, sperm were labeled using antibodies to a sperm-specific antigen, SP17, and unlabeled cells were collected. This resulted in high sperm contamination. In Exp. 2, FzSC were labeled using an anti-MHC class I antibody. This resulted in an essentially pure population of FzSC, 13-25% of which were nucleated. Culture yielded no proliferation in any of nine replicates. In Exp. 3, 5103 viable fresh, cultured horse fibroblasts were added to the frozen-thawed, washed semen, then this suspension was labeled and sorted as for Exp. 2. The enriched population had a mean of five sperm per recovered somatic cell; culture yielded formation of monolayers. In conclusion, an essentially pure population of equine FzSC could be obtained using sorting for presence of MHC class I antigens. No equine FzSC grew in culture; however, the proliferation of fibroblasts subjected to the same processing demonstrated that the labeling and sorting methods, and the presence of few sperm in culture, were compatible with cell viability.