Changes in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) sperm morphology and membrane lipid composition related to cold storage and cryopreservation

The cold storage and cryopreservation of semen decrease sperm quality. Morphological and biochemical analyses of spermatozoa provide valuable information for the optimization of storage protocols to obtain a sufficient number of spermatozoa for in vitro fertilization. The aim of this study was to evaluate the morphology and lipid composition of Atlantic salmon (Salmo solar) spermatozoa after storage at 4 degrees C and cryopreservation. Semen samples were obtained by stripping. One aliquot was stored at 4 degrees C for 7 days, and another aliquot was cryopreserved. The morphology and ultrastructure were analysed using electron microscopy. The lipid composition was analysed by gas chromatography and a commercial kit. After cold storage, the mitochondrion was the most affected component; however, plasma membrane rupture and detachment of the flagellum were also observed. Morphological abnormalities were greater in cryopreserved spermatozoa. The head and mid-piece were dehydrated, sperm membranes were vesiculated, and alterations of mitochondria were observed. After cold storage and cryopreservation, there were less polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, there was an increase in saturated fatty acids and decrease in cholesterol concentration after cryopreservation (P < 0.05). Based on the results, cryopreservation drastically damaged sperm membranes; the cryogenic damage was associated with membrane lipid composition alterations. The sperm membranes were affected less by cold storage but there was also a decrease of some lipids; therefore, there is a need for improvement in cold storage processes to decrease structural damage of spermatozoa so that semen cryopreservation can be effectively used in the salmon industry.

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