Investigation of epididymal sperm maturation in the golden hamster


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During passage of hamster spermatozoa through the epididymis their maturation is shown to involve changes in the sperm head, midpiece (mitochondria) and tail. The sum of these changes results in a dramatic increase in the fertilizing potential of the spermatozoa. When comparable numbers of spermatozoa from the caput or corpus epididymis were injected into one uterine horn of mature females, following ovulation induction, and spermatozoa from the cauda epididymis were injected into the contralateral horn, no fertilization was observed with caput epididymal spermatozoa, 1.7% of oocytes were fertilized by corpus epiddymal spermatozoa, whereas 79.5% fertilization was obtained with cauda epididymal spermatozoa. Total sperm numbers increased from caput to corpus to cauda [28.3 ± 12.2, 40.6 ±20.8, 1434 ±62 mihon, respectively]. The percentage of progressively motile spermatozoa increased from 27.9 ±6.4 to 33.8 ± 4.8 to 70 ± 10.7 during this passage. Viability, measured by exclusion of the dye, propidium iodide, was significantly less in spermatozoa from the cauda than from the proximal or mid‐caput epididymis. The percentage of the live cells that were stained intensely by rhodamine‐123 (a measure of mitochondrial membrane potential) increased during epididymal passage from 22.8 ±7.8% in the proximal caput epididymis to 57.2 ± 16.5% in the cauda epididymis. Staining with acridine orange (a measure of DNA packaging in the sperm head) indicated an increase in chromatin condensation in cauda epididymal spermatozoa, when compared to those obtained from the caput or corpus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-261
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Andrology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA packaging
  • chromatin condensation
  • epididymis
  • fertilization
  • flow cytometry
  • mitochondrial function
  • morphology
  • motility
  • rhodamine‐123
  • spermatozoa


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