In-vitro human spermatozoa nuclear decondensation assessed by flow cytometry

D. Samocha-Bone, L. M. Lewin, R. Weissenberg, Y. Madgar, Y. Soffer, L. Shochat, R. Golan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The process of sperm chromatin decondensation occurs when a spermatozoon enters an ovum. Protamine disulphide bonds are reduced to SH and the polycationic protamines combine with the polyanionic egg protein, nucleoplasmin, thus being stripped from DNA which then combines with histones. Defective chromatin decondensation will thus prevent further development of the male pronucleus. In this study human sperm samples were incubated in vitro at 28°C (using a medium in which the polyanion, heparin, substitutes for nucleoplasmin and β-mercaptoethanol for egg glutathione) for 10, 20 and 30 min before stopping the reaction with formalin (to 3.6%). The DNA of the fixed cells was stained with Acridine Orange by a one-step method and subjected to flow cytometry and data analysis, in which a zone characteristic of condensed chromatin is outlined on red-green fluorescence contour plots. After 20 min of incubation 97% of the control spermatozoa that were in the mature window (WIN M) had decondensed and moved out of this region. Defects in sperm decondensation were seen in four semen samples of the 20 that were tested. In cases where spermatozoa fail to produce a fertilized egg the cause may lie with defective chromatin quality, including failure of the sperm chromatin to decondense. The method described here is a simple procedure for detecting sperm samples containing such defective cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-137
Number of pages5
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998


  • Acridine Orange
  • Chromatin decondensation
  • Flow cytometry
  • Human
  • Spermatozoa


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