Capacitation-associated changes in membrane fluidity in asthenozoospermic human spermatozoa

Int J Androl. 2009 Aug;32(4):360-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2008.00874.x. Epub 2008 Apr 8.


The fertilizing potential of human spermatozoa relies on their ability to capacitate as they travel through the female reproductive tract. During this process, cholesterol is released from the plasma membrane, altering its architecture and dynamics. Using ISolate gradients, we obtained high (L90)- and low (L45)-quality spermatozoa from asthenozoospermic human semen samples. We tested the hypothesis that the lower fertilizing ability of asthenozoospermic L90 cells could be related to a lower ability to increase their membrane fluidity during capacitation. We assessed two sets of fluorescent probes: (i) DPH, TMA-DPH and PA-DPH which senses the hydrophobic core, cytosolic and exofacial leaflets of the bilayer, respectively and (ii) Laurdan, sensitive to the amount of water molecules intercalated between lipid moieties of the membrane (membrane hydration). Before capacitation, membrane fluidity of asthenozoospermic sperm populations was similar to the corresponding fractions of normozoospermic cells when evaluated with DPH, TMA-DPH or PA-DPH. Asthenozoospermic whole samples displayed lower plasma membrane hydration than normozoospermic cells as evidenced with Laurdan. After capacitation, asthenozoospermic L45 and L90 cells failed to increase their membrane fluidity in opposition to normozoospermic cells. Interestingly, membrane hydration significantly correlated with the main sperm motion parameters analysed, being a low membrane hydration associated with poor sperm movement. These results show that low-motility spermatozoa are unable to respond to capacitation with the necessary changes in membrane fluidity. This defect in sperm plasma membrane rheology may be responsible for their poor functional quality and low fertilizing ability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Naphthylamine / analogs & derivatives
  • Adult
  • Asthenozoospermia / metabolism
  • Asthenozoospermia / pathology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / pathology*
  • Diphenylhexatriene / analogs & derivatives
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Humans
  • Laurates
  • Male
  • Membrane Fluidity*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Rheology
  • Sperm Capacitation*
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / pathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Water / metabolism


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Laurates
  • Water
  • Diphenylhexatriene
  • 1-(4-(trimethylamino)phenyl)-6-phenylhexa-1,3,5-triene
  • 1-(4'-carboxyethyl)-6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene
  • 2-Naphthylamine
  • laurdan