Male infertility may be due to oligozoospermia, asthenozoospermia and teratozoospermia. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is used to address male infertility. However, the percentage of viable embryos obtained by this technique is very low. Pronucleus formation has been identified as one of the key events in fertilisation and gamete decondensation is vital for this process to take place. Decondensation can be initiated by chemicals such as DTT that reduce the disulphide groups between the protamine proteins that keep the DNA of the gamete condensed. An increase in decondensation should translate into a higher fertilization rate and a higher yield of embryos. The research from this thesis has compared the decondensation ability via DTT in human spermatozoa and bovine spermatozoa, to study pronucleus formation in bovine zygotes and bovine embryo formation in the presence of DTT; and lastly the cytotoxic effect of DTT using somatic cells in culture has been investigated. In this study 12 semen samples for either fertile or subfertile subjects were collected, isolated and exposed to 25 mM DTT for 0, 5, 7, and 10 minutes, washed and the morphological changes associated with decondensation was evaluated by phase contrast microscopy. After 5 and 7 minutes 11 of the 12 samples underwent decondensation while after 10 minutes several samples showed a lower rate of decondensation and this was associated with and unusual hypercondensed state, CMA3 staining revealed all spermatozoa samples evaluated were mature. However, after treatment with DTT for 5, 7 and 10 minutes an increase in fluorescence was observed indicating increased protamine thiol group reduction and subsequently increased CMA3 accessibility. For some samples reduced fluorescence was observed possible due to the supercoiling of the DNA. DTT successfully induces decondensation of human spermatozoa, however does this lead to the formation of viable embryos? Due to ethical issues associated with working with human embryos all further studies were done using bovine embryos. Spermatozoa used were derived from Friesian bulls and the samples were pooled to prevent sample bias and interindividual variation. Spermatozoa were exposed to 25 mM of DTT at 5, 7, and 10 minutes as used for human spermatozoa. No decondensation was observed using the same conditions as for human spermatozoa, therefore the ‘swim up’ medium containing heparin and regularly used in IVF procedures for bovines was used, and this resulted in successful decondensation of bovine spermatozoa after 30 minutes. The effects of DTT on pronucleus formation and embryo development were evaluated in three bovine specimens. In the first group, DTT had no significant effect on the parameters measured, namely the number of oocytes that were in metaphase II, with one pronucleus, with two pronuclei, with degeneration of the nucleus and polyspermia. In the second group the percentage cleavage and embryo formation was determined on Day 1 (group 2) and 7 (group 3) respectively and statistical differences were obtained between the control and the DTT group. DTT had no significant effect on all the early parameters measured however later in development DTT had a significant adverse effect on cleavage and eventual embryo development. <p)Cleavage and embryo formation is a process of multiple mitotic divisions resulting in an increase in the number of cells that become smaller with each cell division, while somatic cells also undergo mitotic division although the cell size remains constant. Therefore the L929 cell line, a standardized system used to test toxicity, can be used to investigate the toxic effects of DTT on a dividing cell population. In this study L929 cells were expose to 25mM DTT for 30 minutes, and lysosomal membrane integrity, cell viability and number was determined immediately following exposure and after 48 hours growth. In another experiment the L929 cell line was exposed to all concentrations used in this and other studies for 5, 10 and 20 minutes. At all concentrations and exposure times DTT was found to be cytotoxic to the L929 cell line. How exactly DTT mediates this toxic effect is unknown, however due to its high solubility DTT can cross the cell membranes. The tertiary structure of proteins, enzymes and DNA is vulnerable to the reducing effects of DTT. In conclusion, although DTT induces decondensation in human and bovine spermatozoa, in the bovine model it does not lead to viable embryo formation and this has been confirmed in cell culture where DTT at all concentrations used was found to be cytotoxic.
Dissertation (MSc (Anatomy))--University of Pretoria, 2007.