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Volume 12, Issue 4 (July 2010) 12, 591–598; 10.1038/aja.2010.41

Whole-body heat exposure induces membrane changes in spermatozoa from the cauda epididymidis of laboratory mice

Harsha Wechalekar1,2, Brian P. Setchell1, Eleanor J. Peirce1, Mario Ricci1, Chris Leigh1 and William G. Breed1

1 Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
2 Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia

Correspondence: Dr William G. Breed,bill.breed@adelaide.edu.au

Received 7 April 2010; Accepted 20 April 2010; Published online 7 June 2010.


This study was carried out to determine if exposure to hot environmental temperatures had a direct, detrimental effect on sperm quality. For this the effect of whole-body heat exposure on epididymal spermatozoa of laboratory mice was investigated. C57BL/6 mice (n = 7) were housed in a microclimate chamber at 37℃–38℃ for 8 h per day for three consecutive days, while control mice (n = 7) were kept at 23℃–24℃. Cauda epididymal spermatozoa were obtained 16 h after the last heat treatment. The results showed that sperm numbers were similar in the two groups (P = 0.23), but after heat treatment, a significant reduction in the percentage of motile sperm was present (P < 0.0001). Membrane changes of the spermatozoa were investigated by staining with phycoerythrin (PE)-conjugated Annexin V, which detects exteriorization of phosphotidylserine from the inner to the outer leaflet of the sperm plasma membrane, and 7-aminoactinomycin D (7-AAD), which binds to the sperm nucleus when the plasma membrane is damaged. The percentage of spermatozoa showing positive staining with Annexin V–PE or 7-AAD or both, was significantly higher (P < 0.05) in heat-exposed mice compared with controls. These results show that whole-body heat exposure to 37℃–38℃ induces membrane changes in the epididymal spermatozoa of mice, which may lead to apoptosis.

Keywords: laboratory mice; sperm membrane damage; whole-body heat

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