Unravelling how in vitro capacitation alters ram sperm chromatin before and after cryopreservation

Andrology. 2021 Jan;9(1):414-425. doi: 10.1111/andr.12900. Epub 2020 Sep 30.


Background: Sperm chromatin structure provides valuable information for the prediction of male fertility and can be altered during different procedures. Previous studies have shown that sperm chromatin condensation decreased during in vitro capacitation. Moreover, cryopreservation can affect sperm DNA integrity and chromatin compaction.

Objectives: This study aimed to investigate dynamic modifications produced in the chromatin structure of ram spermatozoa during in vitro capacitation before and after cryopreservation.

Materials and methods: Chromatin decondensation (AB+), DNA methylation, DNA fragmentation index (%DFI) and high DNA stainability (HDS) were evaluated in fresh and frozen-thawed ram spermatozoa incubated under capacitating (CAP) conditions at 1, 5, 15, 30, 60, 120, 180 and 240 minutes and under non-capacitating (NC) conditions at 0, 15 and 240 minutes.

Results: Incubation in NC conditions did not induce significant changes in chromatin condensation (P > .05; AB + and HDS). However, incubation of fresh and cryopreserved ram spermatozoa under CAP conditions significantly increased chromatin decondensation (P < .05), reaching the highest percentage of AB + and HDS from 180 to 240 minutes in fresh samples and from 5 to 30 minutes in cryopreserved samples. Both variables (HDS and AB+) were positively correlated with tyrosine phosphorylation, total motility, progressive motility, curvilinear velocity and amplitude of lateral head displacement, as well as between them under CAP conditions in fresh and cryopreserved spermatozoa. DNA methylation significantly increased in cryopreserved spermatozoa (P < .05), but only after extended incubation under CAP conditions (60-240 minutes), while the %DFI, albeit higher in cryopreserved samples, remained constant under CAP and NC conditions in both types of sample (P > .05).

Discussion and conclusions: Our results suggest that sperm chromatin condensation decreased progressively during in vitro capacitation of ram spermatozoa, while sperm DNA integrity remained intact. Such changes in chromatin condensation appeared faster after sperm cryopreservation.

Keywords: DNA methylation; capacitation; chromatin condensation; cryopreservation; ram spermatozoa.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Cryopreservation*
  • Male
  • Sheep*
  • Sperm Capacitation*
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • Chromatin