Flow-cytometric analysis of membrane integrity of stallion sperm in the face of agglutination: the "zombie sperm" dilemma. Academic Article uri icon


  • PURPOSE: To define the effect of sperm agglutination, associated with incubation under capacitating conditions, on accuracy of membrane assessment via flow cytometry and to develop methods to mitigate that effect. METHODS: Sperm motility was measured by CASA. Sperm were stained with PI-PSA or a novel method, LD-PSA, using fixable live/dead stain and cell dissociation treatment, before flow-cytometric analysis. Using LD-PSA, acrosome reaction and plasma membrane status were determined in equine sperm treated with 10 m A23187 for 10 min, followed by 0, 1, or 2 h incubation in capacitating conditions. RESULTS: Using PI-PSA, measured membrane integrity (MI; live sperm) was dramatically lower than was total motility (TMOT), indicating spurious results ("zombie sperm"). Sperm aggregates were largely of motile sperm. Loss of motility after A23187 treatment was associated with disaggregation and increased MI. On disaggregation using LD-PSA, MI rose, and MI then corresponded with TMOT. In equine sperm incubated after A23187 treatment, as the percentage of live acrosome-reacted sperm increased, TMOT decreased to near 0. CONCLUSION: Flow cytometry assesses only individualized sperm; thus, agglutination of viable sperm alters recorded membrane integrity. As viable sperm become immotile, they individualize; therefore, factors that decrease motility, such as A23187, result in increased measured MI. Disaggregation before assessment allows more accurate determination of sperm membrane status; in this case we documented a mismatch between motility and live acrosome-reacted equine sperm that may relate to the poor repeatability of A23187 treatment for equine IVF. These findings are of profound value to future studies on sperm capacitation.

published proceedings

  • J Assist Reprod Genet

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Ortiz, I., Felix, M., Resende, H., Ramrez-Agmez, L., Love, C. C., & Hinrichs, K.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Ortiz, Isabel||Felix, Matheus||Resende, Hélène||Ramírez-Agámez, Luisa||Love, Charles C||Hinrichs, Katrin

publication date

  • January 2021