Study of mitochondrial function in thawed bull spermatozoa using selective electron transfer chain inhibitors

Theriogenology. 2023 Sep 15:208:8-14. doi: 10.1016/j.theriogenology.2023.05.021. Epub 2023 Jun 1.


Bull spermatozoa depend equally on glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation for the maintenance of the energy necessary for their proper functioning. The aim of the present work was to delineate the mitochondrial activity of bull spermatozoa after incubation with specific inhibitors of the different mitochondrial complexes and evaluate their ROS production. Thawed bull sperm cells (30 × 106 mL-1 in Tyrode's extender) were incubated 1 and 3h at 37 °C with rotenone 5 μM (ROT), complex I inhibitor; dimethyl-malonate 10 mM (DMM), complex II inhibitor; carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenyl hydrazine 5 μM (CCCP), uncoupling agent; antimycin A 1 μg/mL (ANTI), complex III inhibitor; oligomycin 5 μM (OLIGO), ATP synthase inhibitor, and 0.5% DMSO, vehicle (CTR). Sperm motility and kinematics were assessed by Hamilton Thorn IVOS 12.0. Mitochondrial membrane potential, mitochondrial O2•- production and H2O2 intracellular content were evaluated by BD FACSCalibur flow cytometer, and sperm viability (SYBR-14/PI) and mitochondrial activity (JC-1/SYBR-14/PI) were assessed by epifluorescence microscopy. A multivariate analysis was performed on the results. In addition, sperm kinematic features, registered for each motile spermatozoon, were studied by cluster analysis. The incubation during 1 or 3 h in presence of the inhibitors of mitochondrial functionality only had a minor effect on motility parameters, decreasing the proportion of the SP1 (fast progressive) subpopulation after 3 h of incubation with ROT, ANTI or OLIGO. The percentage of live spermatozoa with active mitochondria was reduced under the effect of ANTI and CCCP both at 1 and 3 h. In conclusion, mitochondrial function is somehow impaired in frozen thawed bull sperm as not all live cells showed active mitochondria. These results support the findings that bull spermatozoa can alternatively rely on oxidative phosphorylation or glycolysis for energy obtainment and that their mitochondria are less affected by ETC inhibitors.

Keywords: Sperm metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone / pharmacology
  • Cattle
  • Cryopreservation / veterinary
  • Electrons
  • Hydrogen Peroxide* / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mitochondria
  • Semen
  • Semen Preservation* / methods
  • Semen Preservation* / veterinary
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa


  • Carbonyl Cyanide m-Chlorophenyl Hydrazone
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • SYBR-14