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Volume 12, Issue 6 (November 2010) 12, 862–870; 10.1038/aja.2010.25

Desmosterol, the main sterol in rabbit semen: distribution among semen subfractions and its role in the in vitro spermatozoa acrosome reaction and motility

Evangelia Mourvaki1, Raffaella Cardinali1, Rita Roberti2, Alessandro Dal Bosco1 and Cesare Castellini1

Department of Applied Biology, Section of Animal Science, University of Perugia, Perugia 06100, Italy

Correspondence: Prof. Evangelia Mourvaki, vaggiemourvaki@mail.com

Received 27 January 2010; Revised 3 March 2010; Accepted 24 March 2010; Published online 23 August 2010.


Sterols are essential components of the cell membrane lipid bilayer that include molecules such as cholesterol and desmosterol, which are significantly found in the spermatozoa of several animal species. However, the presence of desmosterol in rabbit semen has never been investigated. The aims of this study were to characterize the sterol composition of subfractions of ejaculated rabbit semen and evaluate the in vitro effects of sterol on the spermatozoa acrosome reaction and motility. Two sterols, occurring prevalently in the free form (94.3%), were identified in whole semen collected from 10 fertile New Zealand White rabbits, specifically desmosterol (58.5% of total sterols) and cholesterol (35.9% of total sterols). Desmosterol was the predominant sterol found in all subfractions of rabbit semen, varying from 56.7% (in the prostatic secretory granules, PSGs) to 63.8% (in the seminal plasma). Spermatozoa contained an intermediate proportion of desmosterol (59.8%), which was asymmetrically distributed between the heads (52.0% of the total content of sterols) and the tails (81.8%). Results showed that both desmosterol and cholesterol can be transferred from the PSGs to the spermatozoa and are equally effective in inhibiting in vitro spermatozoa capacitation at a concentration higher than 1 mg L−1. In contrast, neither desmosterol nor cholesterol had a significant effect on spermatozoa motility. Thus, it was concluded that, the various fractions of rabbit seminal fluid differ from each other in sterol composition and quantity, probably due to their different functional properties, and these fractions may undergo significant sterol changes depending on the stage of spermatozoa capacitation.

Keywords: acrosome reaction; cholesterol; desmosterol; motility; prostatic secretory granules; rabbit; seminal plasma; spermatozoa head; spermatozoa tail

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Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.