Melatonin is crucial in reproduction due its antioxidant, hormonal, and paracrine action. Melatonin membrane receptors (MT1/MT2) have been confirmed on spermatozoa from several species, but functionality studies are scarce. To clarify their role in ruminants as reproductive models, bull (Bos taurus, non-seasonal) and red deer (Cervus elaphus, highly seasonal) spermatozoa were analyzed after 4 h of incubation (38 °C, capacitating media) in 10 nM melatonin, MT1/MT2 agonists (phenylmelatonin and 8M-PDOT), and antagonists (luzindole and 4P-PDOT). Motility and functionality (flow cytometry: viability, intracellular calcium, capacitation status, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, and acrosomal and mitochondrial status) were assessed. In bull, MT1 was related to sperm viability preservation, whereas MT2 could modulate cell functionality to prevent excess ROS produced by the mitochondria; this action could have a role in modulating sperm capacitation. Deer spermatozoa showed resistance to melatonin and receptor activation, possibly because the samples were of epididymal origin and collected at the breeding season's peak, with high circulating melatonin. However, receptors could be involved in mitochondrial protection. Therefore, melatonin receptors are functional in the spermatozoa from bull and deer, with different activities. These species offer models differing from traditional laboratory experimental animals on the role of melatonin in sperm biology.
Keywords: GPCR; agonist; antagonist; bull; deer; melatonin; membrane receptor; reproduction; seasonality; spermatozoon.