Components in seminal plasma regulating sperm transport and elimination

M. H.T. Troedsson, A. Desvousges, A. S. Alghamdi, B. Dahms, C. A. Dow, J. Hayna, R. Valesco, P. T. Collahan, M. L. Macpherson, M. Pozor, W. C. Buhi

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112 Scopus citations


Seminal plasma has been suggested to be involved in sperm transport, and as a modulator of sperm-induced inflammation, which is thought to be an important part of sperm elimination from the female reproductive tract. This article reports on recent experiments on the importance of seminal plasma components in sperm transport and elimination. In Experiment 1, hysteroscopic insemination in the presence (n = 3) or absence (n = 3) of 2 ng/mL PGE showed an increased portion of spermatozoa crossing the utero-tubal junction in the presence of PGE in two mares, while no difference was observed between treatments in a third mare. In Experiment 2, whole seminal plasma, heat-treated seminal plasma (90°C for 45 min), and charcoal-treated seminal plasma were added to: (1) sperm samples during opsonization prior to polymorphonuclear neutrophil(s) (PMN)-phagocytosis assays (n = 5); or to (2) phagocytosis assays (n = 5). Opsonization of spermatozoa was suppressed in the presence of whole seminal plasma, compared with samples without seminal plasma (p < 0.05). Charcoal treatment did not remove the suppressive effect of seminal plasma on opsonization, but heat treatment of seminal plasma reduced its suppressive properties (p < 0.05). The addition of whole seminal plasma to opsonized spermatozoa almost completely blocked phagocytosis (p < 0.05). Charcoal treatment did not remove the suppressive effect of seminal plasma. However, heat-treated fractions of seminal plasma removed the suppressive effect of seminal plasma on phagocytosis (p < 0.05). In Experiment 3, viable and non-viable (snap-frozen/thawed) spermatozoa were subjected to in vitro assays for PMN binding and phagocytosis with the following treatments (n = 3): (1) seminal plasma (SP), (2) extender; (3) ammonium sulfate precipitated seminal plasma proteins with protease inhibitor (SPP+); or (4) ammonium sulfate precipitated seminal plasma proteins without protease inhibitor (SPP-). Treatment was observed to impact binding and phagocytosis of viable and non-viable spermatozoa (p < 0.05). SP and SPP+ suppressed PMN-binding and phagocytosis of viable sperm. This effect was also seen, but to a lesser degree, in SPP- treated samples. Non-viable spermatozoa showed less PMN-binding and phagocytosis than live sperm in the absence of SP. The addition of SP promoted PMN-binding and phagocytosis of non-viable spermatozoa. SPP- treated samples also restored PMN-binding of non-viable spermatozoa. The addition of protease inhibitors removed this effect. In Experiment 4, seminal plasma proteins were fractionated based on MW by Sephacryl S200 HR columns (range 5000-250,000 kDa). Fractionated proteins were submitted to sperm-PMN binding assays. A protein fraction <35 kDa suppressed PMN-binding to live and snap-frozen spermatozoa. A greater MW protein fraction appeared to promote binding between PMNs and snap-frozen spermatozoa. While the addition of protease inhibitors was necessary to maintain the protective effect of seminal plasma proteins on viable spermatozoa, the promotive effect of seminal plasma on non-viable spermatozoa appeared to require some protease activity. It was concluded from these experiments that components of seminal plasma play active roles in transportation and survival of viable spermatozoa in the female reproductive tract and in the elimination of non-viable spermatozoa from the uterus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-186
Number of pages16
JournalAnimal Reproduction Science
Issue number1-4 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Oct 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by grants from the American Quarter Horse Association, University of Florida Pari-mutuel Wagering Trust Funds, and Minitube of America.


  • Endometritis
  • Equine
  • Neutrophils
  • Phagocytosis
  • Seminal plasma
  • Sperm transport
  • Spermatozoa
  • Uterus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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