A novel in vitro sperm head decondensation protocol for rapid flow cytometric measurement of deoxyribonucleic acid content

This study establishes a simple method for in vitro sperm head decondensation, which allows an accurate detection of real sperm DNA content and direct quantification of diploid sperm.

Niki Antonucci, M.Sc., Ph.D., Sabrina Manes, M.Sc., Ph.D., Bruna Corradetti, M.Sc., Ph.D., Gian Carlo Manicardi, Ph.D., Andrea Borini, M.D., Davide Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Volume 99, Issue 7, Pages 1857-1861, June 2013


To set up a novel protocol of sperm head in vitro decondensation that obviates the problematic effect of the variable degree of sperm chromatin packaging on DNA staining needed for flow cytometric analysis.

Development of a new cytofluorimetric assay.

University laboratory.

Semen specimens were obtained from normospermic healthy volunteers at the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, Università Politecnica delle Marche.

Setup of the novel in vitro sperm head decondensation protocol; sperm were then stained and analyzed by flow cytometry to measure DNA content.

Main Outcome Measure(s):
Mean fluorescent channel, DNA content, percentage diploid sperm.

Native nondecondensed fluorochrome-labeled sperm show significant under-staining, resulting in an underestimated C-value (approximately 1.4 pg). This protocol ensures stoichiometric staining of sperm DNA, which becomes fully reachable by fluorescent probes and makes the diploid (7.12 pg) over haploid (3.56 pg) sperm frequency quantification easier.

This study establishes a simple method for in vitro sperm head decondensation, which allows accurate detection of the real sperm DNA content.

  • Nikki Brandon

    Is there a more detailed protocol for the sperm head decondensation that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

  • jim hotaling

    This work is interesting but I would be curious to know what the clinical application of this work is. Particularly, what is the value of knowing the sperm DNA content or fragmentation if we have to destroy the sperm to obtain this information? I see the importance of this work from a research perspective but am not clear on exactly how it will translate clinically. In the male infertility world we struggle with how to use DNA fragmentation and translate it to clinically meaningful outcomes. This work gives us another tool to examine sperm DNA and may hold promise for a tool that could be used to give us data on population of sperm and individual spermatozoa.

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