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The fate of spermatozoa in the female reproductive tract: A comparative review
- Rickard, J.P., Pool, K.R., Druart, X., de Graaf, S.P.
- Theriogenology 2019 v.137 pp. 104-112
- boars, comparative study, ewes, freeze-thaw cycles, oocytes, pathogens, rams, sperm transport, spermatozoa, uterus, vagina
- The journey that spermatozoa take following deposition in the female tract is a long and perilous one. The barriers they face within the female tract differ depending on whether they are deposited in the vagina or uterus, like spermatozoa of the ram or boar respectively. Comparative studies on the transit of spermatozoa through the ewe and sow tracts serves to highlight similarities, or differences, in the way their sperm-surface properties enable them to overcome these barriers, progress through the tract and fertilise the oocyte. The female environment contributes towards this successful transit by providing a vehicle for sperm transport, aiding the removal of dead spermatozoa and other pathogens and applying strict selection pressures to ensure only those cells with the highest quality reach the site of fertilisation. Understanding the criteria behind these natural barriers helps an understanding of the limitations to fertility associated with preserved spermatozoa, and how in vitro manipulation can alter this complex interaction between spermatozoa and the female environment. Similar mechanisms or surface coat interactions exist in both species, but each has evolved to be used for physiologically disparate functions. Here we briefly describe the sperm surface characteristics of both fresh and frozen-thawed boar and ram spermatozoa and compare how these properties equip them to survive the physical, biochemical and immune interactions within the female reproductive tract.