Scanning Microscopy


Zinc excreted from the human prostate secures a high content of zinc in the sperm nucleus and contributes to the stability of the quaternary structure of the chromatin. After ejaculation, in vitro, a second type of stability, most probably involving disulfide- bridge crosslinks, supersedes the zinc-dependent stability. Normally, the nucleus of the ejaculated spermatozoon remains stable, i.e., it does not decondense when exposed to a detergent (e.g., sodium dodecyl sulfate -SDS), whereas a spermatozoon which has been exposed to a zinc- chelating medium becomes destabilized and decondenses in SDS. Spontaneous decondensation in SDS, i.e., without prior treatment with zinc-chelators, occurs among many spermatozoa from some infertile men, especially men with impaired secretory function of the prostate. This indicates that spontaneously decondensing spermatozoa have an inadequate content of zinc at ejaculation. Here, zinc in the sperm nucleus and chromatin stability was studied in semen samples from a group of men living in marriages with hitherto unexplained cause for infertility, and a group of fertile donors, who participated in an insemination program. Sperm nuclear zinc was studied with X-ray microanalysis and chromatin stability was assessed as percentage spermatozoa with stable sperm heads after exposure to SDS. Fertile donors had higher content of zinc in the sperm nuclei and had also higher proportions spermatozoa with a stabilized chromatin, than had the men living in infertile marriages. A positive rank- correlation was found between percentage of stable spermatozoa and sperm nuclear zinc. Zinc may stabilize the chromatin by forming salt-bridges between thiol-and amino- residues of adjacent nucleoprotamine-fibers.

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