Loss of Intracellular Antioxidant Enzyme Activity During Sperm Cryopreservation: Effects on Sperm Function After Thawing

  • Juan G. AlvarezEmail author


Despite advances in cryopreservation methodology, one of the main detrimental effects of cryopreservation on human spermatozoa is a marked reduction in motility. The primary cause of cellular damage during cryopreservation is the formation of intracellular ice. The concentration of solutes remaining in the unfrozen fraction increases, thereby both depressing the freezing point and increasing the osmotic pressure of the remaining solution. Hence, biological systems freeze progressively over a wide temperature range, during which the solute becomes gradually more concentrated as the temperature falls. This leads to irreversible rupturing of plasma and nuclear membranes and disturbance of cellular organelles. The nucleus has generally been considered to be a stable constituent of the cell. However, recent studies have suggested that this is not the case and that inappropriate chromatin condensation can occur with freezing. Cryoprotectants such as glycerol or propanediol can be added to cells to reduce freezing damage by lowering the salt concentrations and increasing the unfrozen water fraction, thereby reducing osmotic stress. Further cellular damage may be caused during the thawing process as the ice melts or recrystallizes. Slow thawing is most likely to induce injury, as it allows time for consolidation of microscopic ice crystals into larger forms which are known to be damaging. The production and dissolution of ice is associated with the actual rate of freezing and thawing. Slow freezing and gradual dehydration may accommodate cell survival, whereas rapid freezing and thawing is more likely to result in cell death.


Sperm cryopreservation Sperm motility Lipid peroxidation Sperm function after thawing Oxygen radical production Antioxidant enzymes Superoxide dismutase Glutathione peroxidase DNA fragmentation DNA oxidation 


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Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Infertilidad Masculina AndrogenLa CoruñaSpain
  2. 2.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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