This study was designed to determine: (i) the in vitro effects of different freezing rates on post-thaw semen quality of Mediterranean brown trout (Salmo trutta macrostigma) from the Biferno river; and (ii) the in vivo fertilization and hatching percentage of freezing rate giving rise to the best post-thaw semen quality.
Pooled semen samples were diluted 1:3 (v:v) in a freezing extender composed of 300 mM glucose, 10% egg yolk and 10% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). The extended semen was packaged in 0.25 ml plastic straws and frozen at different heights above the liquid nitrogen surface (1, 5 or 10 cm) for 10 min to give three different freezing rates. Semen samples were thawed at 30°C for 10 s. The variables assessed after thawing were sperm motility, duration of motility and viability.
Our results clearly indicate a significant effect of freezing rate on post-thaw semen quality. Semen frozen 5 cm above the liquid nitrogen surface showed the best quality after freezing/thawing. Based on these in vitro data, 2 groups of 200 eggs were fertilized with fresh semen or semen frozen 5 cm above the liquid nitrogen surface. Fertilization and hatching rates recorded for eggs fertilized with frozen semen were significantly lower (25.4% and 22.5%, respectively) than the ones obtained using fresh semen (87.8% and 75.5%, respectively). An effective freezing protocol will allow for the creation of a sperm cryobank to recover the original population of Mediterranean brown trout in the Biferno river.