Key factors enhancing sperm fertilizing ability are transferred from the epididymis to the spermatozoa via epididymosomes in the domestic cat model

  • Tricia Rowlison
  • Mary Ann Ottinger
  • Pierre Comizzoli
Gamete Biology



Spermatozoa undergo critical changes in structure and function during the epididymal transit. Our previous studies in the domestic cat demonstrated that incidence of cenexin—a key protein involved in the centrosomal maturation—progressively increases in sperm cells from caput to cauda epididymidis. The objectives of the study were to (1) characterize mechanisms involved in transferring key factors—using the cenexin as a marker—between the epididymis and maturing sperm cells and (2) demonstrate the impact of such mechanisms on the acquisition of functional properties by spermatozoa.


Epididymides were dissected from adult cat testes to assess the presence and localization of cenexin in testicular tissues and each epididymal segment (caput, corpus, and cauda) via immunofluorescence, Western blot, and mass spectrometry.


Results showed that tissues, luminal fluid, and isolated epididymosomes from each segment contained cenexin. Co-incubation of immature sperm cells for 3 h with luminal fluid or epididymosomes followed by immunostaining revealed that percentages of sperm cells containing cenexin significantly increased in samples co-incubated with epididymosome suspensions. Additionally, epididymosome co-incubation with immature spermatozoa resulted in sustained motility compared to untreated spermatozoa while there was no significant effect on acrosome integrity.


Taken together, these results suggest that epididymosomes play a critical role in epididymal sperm maturation and could be ideal vehicles to assist in the enhancement or suppression of male fertility.


Epididymis Domestic cat Sperm maturation Centrosome Motility Epididymosomes 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Brent Whitaker of Animal Rescue Inc. and Dr. Keiko Antoku at Waldorf Well Pet Clinic, as well as all their staff, for their services and donation of domestic cat testes. We would also like to thank Sarah Jacobs for her assistance with this study.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and its text is not subject to copyright protection in the United States; however, its text may be subject to foreign copyright protection 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tricia Rowlison
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mary Ann Ottinger
    • 2
    • 3
  • Pierre Comizzoli
    • 1
  1. 1.Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological ParkWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Animal and Avian SciencesUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biology and BiochemistryUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA

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