The main aim of this study was to compare the motility and functional integrity of bull spermatozoa after single and double freezing and thawing. The viability and morphological integrity of spermatozoa selected by PureSperm density gradient centrifugation after cryopreservation of bovine semen in two commercial extenders (Experiment 1) and the function of bull spermatozoa before and after a second freezing and thawing assisted by PureSperm selection (Experiment 2) were examined. On average, 35.8 +/- 12.1% of sperm loaded onto the PureSperm density gradient were recovered after centrifugation. In Experiment 1, post-thaw motility and acrosome integrity were higher for spermatozoa frozen in Tris-egg yolk extender than in AndroMed, whether the assessments were made immediately after thawing [80.4 +/- 12.7 vs 47.6 +/- 19.0% motile and 78.8 +/- 8.3 vs 50.1 +/- 19.5% normal apical ridge (NAR), p < 0.05] or after preparation on the gradient (83.3 +/- 8.6 vs 69.4 +/- 15.9% motile and 89.5 +/- 7.2 vs 69.1 +/- 11.4% NAR, p < 0.05). For semen frozen in Tris-egg yolk extender, selection on the PureSperm gradient did not influence total motility but significantly improved the proportion of acrosome-intact spermatozoa. After the gradient, both the total motility and percentage of normal acrosomes increased for spermatozoa frozen in AndroMed (Minitüb Tiefenbach, Germany). In Experiment 2, there was no difference in sperm motility after the first and second freeze-thawing (82.9 +/- 12.7 vs 68.8 +/- 18.7%). However, the proportion of acrosome-intact spermatozoa was significantly improved by selection through the PureSperm gradient, whether measured by phase contrast microscopy (78.9 +/- 9.7 vs 90.4 +/- 4.0% NAR, p < 0.05) or flow cytometry (53.4 +/- 11.7 vs 76.3 +/- 6.0% viable acrosome-intact spermatozoa, p < 0.001). The improvement in the percentage of spermatozoa with normal acrosomes was maintained after resuspension in the cooling extender and cooling to 4 degrees C (88.2 +/- 6.2) and after re-freezing and thawing (83.6 +/- 6.56% NAR). However, flow cytometric assessment of the sperm membranes revealed a decline in the percentage of viable spermatozoa with intact membranes after the second freezing and thawing compared with after gradient centrifugation (76.3 +/- 6.0% vs 46.6 +/- 6.6%, p < 0.001) to levels equivalent to those obtained after the first round of freeze-thawing (53.4 +/- 11.7% viable acrosome-intact spermatozoa). Sperm movement characteristics assessed by computer-assisted analysis were unaffected in the population selected on the PureSperm gradients but declined after cooling of the selected and extended spermatozoa to 4 degrees C. There was no further change in these kinematic measurements after the cooled spermatozoa had undergone the second round of freeze-thawing. These results demonstrate that bull semen can be frozen and thawed, followed by a second freeze-thawing cycle of a population of spermatozoa selected by PureSperm, with retained motility and functional integrity. This points to the possibility of using double frozen spermatozoa in bovine artificial insemination programmes and to the potential benefits of PureSperm density gradient centrifugation for the application of cryopreserved bull spermatozoa to other biotechnological procedures such as flow cytometric sex sorting followed by re-freezing and thawing.