Kinematics of hamster sperm during penetration of the cumulus cell matrix.
During capacitation, mammalian spermatozoa gain the ability to penetrate the cumulus cell matrix (CCM). The role of hyperactivated motility for this capacity is uncertain. In the present study, hamster sperm were observed during penetration and progression through the CCM, and flagellar beat patterns were quantitated by characterization of the underlying flagellar bends. Small numbers of sperm were added to cumulus masses slightly compressed on a slide (150 micron depth), and penetration was videorecorded using interference contrast optics. During penetration of the cumulus surface, sperm did not generate the large flagellar bends and asymmetric beats that are hallmarks of hyperactivation in low viscosity media. Instead, they entered slowly using high-frequency, low-amplitude sinusoidal flagellar motions. Within the CCM, sperm continued to move slowly, and they exhibited three distinct patterns of motility. The first was sinusoidal, produced by alternating, propagated bends: principal bends (PB) moved the head away from the beat midline, with the convex edge of the head leading, and reverse bends (RB) had the opposite curvature. The second pattern was asymmetric and sinusoidal: an extreme RB developed in the distal flagellum, was propagated distally, and was followed by a PB of less curvature. The third motility pattern was a hatchet-like stroke of the sperm head which resulted when an extreme, nonpropagated PB developed slowly in the proximal midpiece, and was released rapidly. In this mode there were no reverse bends, and sperm did not progress. There were subpopulations of capacitating sperm in free-swimming medium which had these same bend types and motility patterns, suggesting that qualitative flagellar movement may not change during CCM penetration. Sperm velocity in the CCM was not strongly correlated with flagellar beat kinematics, suggesting local heterogeneity in cumulus mechanical resistance and/or differences in interaction of the matrix with the surfaces of individual sperm. An effective viscosity of the cumulus near its border was estimated to be of the order of 1-4 P.
Drobnis, EZ; Yudin, AI; Cherr, GN; Katz, DF
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