A mutation study of sperm head shape and motility in the mouse: lessons for the clinic

Andrology. 2015 Mar;3(2):174-202. doi: 10.1111/andr.300. Epub 2014 Dec 16.


Mouse mutants that show effects on sperm head shape, the sperm tail (flagellum), and motility were analysed in a systematic way. This was achieved by grouping mutations in the following classes: manchette, acrosome, Sertoli cell contact, chromatin remodelling, and mutations involved in complex regulations such as protein (de)phosphorylation and RNA stability, and flagellum/motility mutations. For all mutant phenotypes, flagellum function (motility) was affected. Head shape, including the nucleus, was also affected in spermatozoa of most mouse models, though with considerable variation. For the mutants that were categorized in the flagellum/motility group, generally normal head shapes were found, even when the flagellum did not develop or only poorly so. Most mutants are sterile, an occasional one semi-sterile. For completeness, the influence of the sex chromosomes on sperm phenotype is included. Functionally, the genes involved can be categorized as regulators of spermiogenesis. When extrapolating these data to human sperm samples, in vivo selection for motility would be the tool for weeding out the products of suboptimal spermiogenesis and epididymal sperm maturation. The striking dependency of motility on proper sperm head development is not easy to understand, but likely is of evolutionary benefit. Also, sperm competition after mating can never act against the long-term multi-generation interest of genetic integrity. Hence, it is plausible to suggest that short-term haplophase fitness i.e., motility, is developmentally integrated with proper nucleus maturation, including genetic integrity to protect multi-generation fitness. We hypothesize that, when the prime defect is in flagellum formation, apparently a feedback loop was not necessary as head morphogenesis in these mutants is mostly normal. Extrapolating to human-assisted reproductive techniques practice, this analysis would supply the arguments for the development of tools to select for motility as a continuous (non-discrete) parameter.

Keywords: mouse; sperm morphology; sperm motility; sperm selection; spermiogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome
  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal*
  • Mutation*
  • Sertoli Cells / cytology
  • Sperm Head*
  • Sperm Motility*
  • Spermatids / cytology