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Identifying non-sperm particles during flow cytometric physiological assessment: a simple approach

Petrunkina, A.M., Waberski, D., Bollwein, H., Sieme, H.
Theriogenology 2010 v.73 no.7 pp. 995-1000
mammals, artificial insemination, male fertility, cell biology, flow cytometry, validity, accuracy, viability, osmolarity, osmotolerance, new methods, new technology, optimization, laboratory techniques, estimation
Flow cytometry is now being used more frequently to determine sperm functional characteristics during semen assessment for artificial insemination. With this methodology, viable and potentially functional cells are detected as unstained events differentiated from non-sperm events through their light-scattering characteristics. However, it can be shown mathematically that identification of sperm on the basis of light scatter leads to significant overestimation of unstained viable cells and underestimation of responding cells in tests of sperm function (subpopulations expressing different fluorescence patterns). We have developed a simple and cost-efficient flow cytometric approach for identifying non-sperm particles that can be carried out in parallel with functional assessments. Our method is based on the sperm's osmotic intolerance. Diluted in water, lethal osmotic shock causes major damage to the cell membranes, and all sperm will stain with propidium iodide (PI). Particulate material which is not PI-positive can then be quantitatively evaluated by FACS analysis and the results substituted in mathematical equations to provide true values for sperm counts and subpopulations. In practical tests, the percentage of non-sperm particles determined by this technique was closely comparable to the figure obtained either by SYBR14®/PI staining or by PI/CFDA staining. As well as being valuable with respect to tests of sperm function, the procedure is also suitable for obtaining accurate sperm counts during routine semen evaluation.