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The autophagy-related protein LC3 is processed in stallion spermatozoa during short-and long-term storage and the related stressful conditions

  • I. M. Aparicio (a1), P. Martin Muñoz (a2), G. M. Salido (a1), F. J. Peña (a2) and J. A. Tapia (a1)...

Abstract

Use of cooled and frozen semen is becoming increasingly prevalent in the equine industry. However, these procedures cause harmful effects in the sperm cell resulting in reduced cell lifespan and fertility rates. Apoptosis and necrosis-related events are increased during semen cryopreservation. However, a third type of cell death, named autophagy, has not been studied during equine semen storage. Light chain (LC)3 protein is a key component of the autophagy pathway. Under autophagy activation, LC3-I is lipidated and converted to LC3-II. The ratio of LC3-II/LC3-I is widely used as a marker of autophagy activation. The main objective of this study was to investigate whether LC3 is processed during cooling, freezing and the stressful conditions associated with these technologies. A secondary objective was to determine if LC3 processing can be modulated and if that may improve the quality of cryopreserved semen. LC3 processing was studied by Western blot with a specific antibody that recognized both LC3-I and LC3-II. Viability was assessed by flow cytometry. Modulation of LC3-I to LC3-II was studied with known autophagy activators (STF-62247 and rapamycin) or inhibitors (chloroquine and 3-MA) used in somatic cells. The results showed that conversion of LC3-I to LC3-II increased significantly during cooling at 4°C, freezing/thawing and each of the stressful conditions tested (UV radiation, oxidative stress, osmotic stress and changes in temperature). STF-62247 and rapamycin increased the LC3-II/LC3-I ratio and decreased the viability of equine sperm, whereas chloroquine and 3-MA inhibited LC3 processing and maintained the percentage of viable cells after 2 h of incubation at 37°C. Finally, refrigeration at 4°C for 96 h and freezing at −196°C in the presence of chloroquine and 3-MA resulted in higher percentages of viable cells. In conclusion, results showed that an ‘autophagy-like’ mechanism may be involved in the regulation of sperm viability during equine semen cryopreservation. Modulation of autophagy during these reproductive technologies may result in an improvement of semen quality and therefore in higher fertility rates.

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Corresponding author

E-mail: imad@unex.es

References

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The autophagy-related protein LC3 is processed in stallion spermatozoa during short-and long-term storage and the related stressful conditions

  • I. M. Aparicio (a1), P. Martin Muñoz (a2), G. M. Salido (a1), F. J. Peña (a2) and J. A. Tapia (a1)...

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