Zebrafish reproduction: revisiting in vitro fertilization to increase sperm cryopreservation success

PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21059. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021059. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Although conventional cryopreservation is a proven method for long-term, safe storage of genetic material, protocols used by the zebrafish community are not standardized and yield inconsistent results, thereby putting the security of many genotypes in individual laboratories and stock centers at risk. An important challenge for a successful zebrafish sperm cryopreservation program is the large variability in the post-thaw in vitro fertilization success (0 to 80%). But how much of this variability was due to the reproductive traits of the in vitro fertilization process, and not due to the cryopreservation process? These experiments only assessed the in vitro process with fresh sperm, but yielded the basic metrics needed for successful in vitro fertilization using cryopreserved sperm, as well. We analyzed the reproductive traits for zebrafish males with a strict body condition range. It did not correlate with sperm volume, or motility (P>0.05), but it did correlate with sperm concentration. Younger males produced more concentrated sperm (P<0.05). To minimize the wastage of sperm during the in vitro fertilization process, 10(6) cells/ml was the minimum sperm concentration needed to achieve an in vitro fertilization success of ≥ 70%. During the in vitro process, pooling sperm did not reduce fertilization success (P>0.05), but pooling eggs reduced it by approximately 30 to 50% (P<0.05). This reduction in fertilization success was due not to the pooling of the females' eggs, but to the type of tools used to handle the eggs. Recommendations to enhance the in vitro process for zebrafish include: 1) using males of a body condition closer to 1.5 for maximal sperm concentration; 2) minimizing sperm wastage by using a working sperm concentration of 10(6) motile cells/ml for in vitro fertilization; and 3) never using metal or sharp-edged tools to handle eggs prior to fertilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cryopreservation*
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro*
  • Male
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa / cytology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology*