Characteristics of donkey spermatozoa along the length of the epididymis

Theriogenology. 2012 Jan 1;77(1):166-73. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2011.07.031. Epub 2011 Aug 26.


In mammals, the epididymis has numerous interrelated functions including absorptive and secretory activity that affect luminal environment and cell membrane, and the maturation and storage of sperm. Spermatozoa acquire their motility and fertilizing ability during their passage through the epididymis and the motility of epididymal spermatozoa should be a balance between the maturation of flagellum and the inhibition of the flagellar machinery. In this study maturational change in sperm characteristics were evaluated in the epididymis of donkey. Spermatozoa collected from four portions of the epididymis (head, cranial corpus, caudal corpus, tail) were compared before and after ejaculation for viability, mitochondrial activity, kinetic parameters, and morphology. A significant increase in the mitochondrial activity along the epididymis was reported, suggesting a possible involvement in the motion mechanism. This should be corroborated by the significant correlation between mitochondrial activity and the total and progressive motility and the increase in velocities of spermatozoa recorded by computer-assisted sperm analysis. The percentage of most of the abnormal spermatozoa were similar in all tracts, with a great variability between jackasses. Only the bent midpiece percentage decreased significantly along epididymis. A significant increase in the percentage of distal cytoplasmic droplets (DCD), and a simultaneous decrease in the proximal cytoplasmic droplets (PCD), was found. The DCD fell down after ejaculation suggesting the late loss of the cytoplasmic residual (DCD) in the donkey, as hypothesized in the stallion. Because the prevalence of PCD were similar in both tail epididymal and ejaculated spermatozoa, a defect of the maturative process in the PCD sperm should be speculated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epididymis / cytology*
  • Equidae*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Semen Analysis / veterinary
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa / cytology*
  • Spermatozoa / growth & development