Large human sperm vacuoles observed in motile spermatozoa under high magnification: nuclear thumbprints linked to failure of chromatin condensation.


BACKGROUND An embryo's ability to grow and implant can be improved by selection of a normal spermatozoon with a vacuole-free head. However, large vacuoles in spermatozoa have yet to be fully characterized. The present study aimed to determine whether these vacuoles are of nuclear, membrane and/or acrosomal origin. METHODS We studied 15 infertile patients with differing sperm profiles. For each sperm sample, we used high-magnification (×10 000) contrast microscopy to select and assess 30 normal 'top' spermatozoa and 30 spermatozoa with a large sperm-head vacuole (≥ 25% of the head's cross-sectional area). We subsequently analysed the spermatozoa's degree of chromatin condensation (aniline blue staining), DNA fragmentation (terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick-end labelling assay) and chromosome content (fluorescence in situ hybridization X,Y,18). Atomic force microscopy enabled us to map the plasma sperm membrane in detail. Three-dimensional deconvolution microscopy enabled us to reconstruct images of the nucleus and acrosome in 'top' and 'vacuolated' spermatozoa. RESULTS We studied a total of 450 'top' spermatozoa and 450 vacuolated spermatozoa. The rate of non-condensed chromatin was higher for 'vacuolated' spermatozoa than for 'top' spermatozoa (36.2 ± 1.9 versus 7.6 ± 1.3%, respectively; P < 0.0001). 'Top' and 'vacuolated' spermatozoa did not differ significantly in terms of DNA fragmentation (0.7 ± 0.4 versus 1.3 ± 0.4% respectively; P = 0.25) or aneuploidy (1.1 ± 0.5 versus 2.2 ± 0.7% respectively; P = 0.21). The majority of aneuploid spermatozoa (9 out of 15) lacked chromatin condensation. In all vacuolated spermatozoa, the acrosome was intact, the plasma membrane was sunken but intact and the large vacuole was identified as an abnormal, 'thumbprint'-like nuclear concavity covered by acrosomal and plasmic membranes. CONCLUSIONS The large vacuole appears to be a nuclear 'thumbprint' linked to failure of chromatin condensation.

DOI: 10.1093/humrep/der129

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@article{Boitrelle2011LargeHS, title={Large human sperm vacuoles observed in motile spermatozoa under high magnification: nuclear thumbprints linked to failure of chromatin condensation.}, author={Florence Boitrelle and Fatma Ferfouri and J . M . Petit and Dominique Segretain and Christophe Tourain and Marianne Berg{\`e}re and Marc Bailly and Francois Vialard and Martine Albert and Jacqueline Selva}, journal={Human reproduction}, year={2011}, volume={26 7}, pages={1650-8} }