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A comparative overview of the sperm centriolar complex in mammals and birds: Variations on a theme

Soley, John T.
Animal reproduction science 2016 v.169 pp. 14-23
Acinonyx jubatus, Aves, centrioles, emus, ostriches, rats, spermatozoa, spermiogenesis
This paper presents an overview of the structure, function and anomalies of the sperm centriolar complex (CC) on a comparative basis between mammals and birds. The information is based on selected references from the literature supplemented by original observations on spermiogenesis and sperm structure in disparate mammalian (cheetah and cane rat) and avian (ostrich, rhea and emu) species. Whereas the basic structure of the CC (a diplosome surrounded by pericentriolar material) is similar in Aves and Mammalia, certain differences are apparent. Centriole reduction does not generally occur in birds, but when present as in oscines, involves the loss of the proximal centriole. In ratites, the distal centriole forms the core of the entire midpiece and incorporates the outer dense fibres in addition to initiating axoneme formation. The elements of the connecting piece are not segmented in birds and less complex in basic design than in mammals. The functions of the various components of the CC appear to be similar in birds and mammals. Despite obvious differences in sperm head shape, the centrosomal anomalies afflicting both vertebrate groups demonstrate structural uniformity across species and display a similar range of defects. Most abnormalities result from defective migration and alignment of the CC relative to the nucleus. The most severe manifestation is that of acephalic sperm, while angled tail attachment, abaxial and multiflagellate sperm reflect additional defective forms. The stump-tail defect is not observed in birds. A comparison of defective sperm formation and centrosomal dysfunction at the molecular level is currently difficult owing to the paucity of relevant information on avian sperm.