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Alternative reproductive tactics, sperm mobility, and oxidative stress in Carollia perspicillata (Seba's short-tailed bat)

2017-1-1, Fasel, Nicolas Jean, Wesseling, Charlotte, Fernandez, Ahana Aurora, Vallat, Armelle, Glauser, Gaëtan, Helfenstein, Fabrice, Richner, Heinz

In social systems with alternative reproductive tactics, sneakers face a stronger sperm competition than harem males, and hence are predicted to allocate more resources to ejaculates. Antioxidants can protect sperm against oxidative stress, and thus their allocation to the ejaculate may depend on social status. In this study on the frugivorous bat Carollia perspicillata, we assessed for harem and sneaker males, four sperm mobility traits, blood and ejaculate markers of the redox balance, and the ejaculate to blood ratios of the redox markers. Under higher sperm competition, sneaker males should allocate proportionally more antioxidant resources to the protection of sperm than harem males. In contrast, harem males should favour pre-copulatory functions, which comprise the protection of blood. We found significantly higher sperm velocity and sperm survival in sneakers. There was no correlation between sperm mobility and sperm enzymatic antioxidant activity or ejaculate levels of lipid peroxidation (oxidative damage). Ejaculate levels of lipid peroxidation and sperm survival showed a significantly positive correlation, which could be attributed to the role of reactive oxygen species for sperm capacitation. Harem and sneaker males showed similar levels of redox balance markers in ejaculate and blood. However, harem males showed a higher ratio of oxidized over reduced glutathione in blood, which may indicate higher cellular stress due to higher metabolism. Overall, our findings suggest that sneakers of C. perspicillata compensate for a stronger sperm competition by higher sperm mobility.

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Antioxidant allocation modulates sperm quality across changing social environments

2017-5-4, Rojas Mora, Alfonso Luis, Gning, Ophélie, Meniri, Magali, Glauser, Gaëtan, Vallat, Armelle, Helfenstein, Fabrice

In promiscuous species, male reproductive success depends on their ability to mate with fertile females and on the fertilizing ability of their sperm. In such species, theory predicts that, owing to a trade-off between pre- and post-copulatory reproductive traits, males with lesser access to females should increase resource investment into those sperm traits that enhance fertilization success–usually referred to as ejaculate quality. This prediction has been validated in several taxa, yet studies on the physiological mechanisms modulating ejaculate quality are lacking. Sperm cells are highly vulnerable to oxidative stress, which impairs male fertility. Therefore, males that better protect their sperm from oxidative stress are expected to achieve higher ejaculate quality. Based on theoretical expectations, and since social dominance is a major determinant of mating opportunity, we predicted that subordinate males should invest more into the antioxidant protection of their sperm in order to achieve higher ejaculate quality. We maintained 60 male and 60 female wild-caught house sparrows Passer domesticus in outdoor aviaries, where we experimentally manipulated male social status to test our predictions. We measured cellular oxidative stress and enzymatic antioxidant activity in blood and sperm both before and after manipulating social ranks. Before manipulating the social status, we found that ejaculate viability correlated with oxidative stress level in sperm, with dominant males producing more oxidized and less viable ejaculates. Further, males at the lower end of the hierarchy produced ejaculates of similar quality to those of dominant males, suggesting that restricted access to resources might limit male reproductive strategies. After experimentally manipulating the social status, males matched their ejaculate quality to their new rank, while increases in antioxidant investment into ejaculates paralleled increases in ejaculate viability. Oxidative stress has been proposed as a general constraint to the evolution of life histories. Our results highlight oxidative stress and strategic antioxidant allocation as important proximate physiological mechanisms underlying male reproductive strategies.

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Electroejaculation and semen buffer evaluation in the microbat Carollia perspicillata

2015-3-1, Fasel, Nicolas Jean, Helfenstein, Fabrice, Buff, Samuel, Richner, Heinz

Scientific interests and conservation needs currently stress the necessity to better understanding bat reproductive biology. In this study, we present the first, safe, inexpensive, and reliable method to obtain sperm from a microbat species (Carollia perspicillata) by electroejaculation. This method revealed to be highly efficient (100% success rate). We obtained ejaculates composed of two characteristically different fractions. We compared three buffers and recommend using an Earle's balanced salt solution as a semen extender. Earle's balanced salt solution provided significant repeatable measure of swimming ability (intraclass correlation coefficient: 0.74, P < 0.01) and proportion of motile sperms (intraclass correlation coefficient: 0.08, P = 0.01) and allowed sperm to maintain optimal swimming capacity over time. None of the buffers could dissolve all the coagulated sperm. Although the trypsin buffer freed a larger fraction of spermatozoa in the ejaculate, it impaired swimming ability without improving motility, viability, and stamina. We thus argue that the sperm population analyzed with Earle's balanced salt solution is a representative of the ejaculate. Finally, we found that the mean sperm velocity of C perspicillata (78.8 μm/s) is lower than that predicted by regressing sperm velocity on relative testes mass, a proxy of sperm competition. The question as to whether C perspicillata is an outsider for sperm velocity, or whether bats evolved yet another unique mechanism to cope with sperm competition deserves more investigations.

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Oxidative stress affects sperm performance and ejaculate redox status in subordinate house sparrows

2017-5-15, Rojas Mora, Alfonso Luis, Firth, Alexandra, Blareau, Sophie, Vallat, Armelle, Helfenstein, Fabrice

Oxidative stress (OS) is the result of random cellular damage caused by reactive oxygen species that leads to cell death, ageing, or illness. Most physiological processes can result in OS, which in turn has been identified as a major cause of infertility. In promiscuous species, the fertilizing ability of the ejaculate partly determines the male reproductive success. When dominance determines access to fertile females, theory predicts that lower ranking males should increase resource investment into enhancing ejaculate quality. We hypothesized that subordinate males should thus prioritize antioxidant protection of their ejaculates to protect them from OS. We put this hypothesis to the test, by chronically dosing wild House Sparrows with diquat (∼1mg/kg), an herbicide that increases pro-oxidant generation. We found that, although they increased their antioxidant levels in the ejaculate, diquat-treated males produced sperm with reduced velocity. Importantly, and contrary to our hypothesis, males at the bottom of the hierarchy suffered the largest reduction in sperm velocity. We suggest that resource access hinders individuals' ability to cope with environmental hazards. Our results point at OS as a likely physiological mechanism mediating ejaculate quality, while individual ability to access resources may play a role in constraining the extent to which such resources can be allocated into the ejaculate.

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Modification of sperm quality after sexual abstinence in the Seba's short tailed bat (Carollia perspicillata)

2016-5-4, Wesseling, Charlotte, Fasel, Nicolas Jean, Richner, Heinz, Helfenstein, Fabrice

In polygynous mating systems, few males have stable access to sexual mates. With an expected higher copulation rate, harem males may deplete seminal fluids or increase epididymal sperm maturation, generating poor sperm quality. In a first study, we reported a higher sperm quality in sneaker males of Carollia perspicillata. To test whether the lower sperm quality observed in harem males was generated by an elevated copulation rate, we temporarily removed males of both social statuses from the colony. We thus assessed status-related changes of sperm quality resulting from sexual abstinence. Moreover, released from territory and female guarding, harem males were expected to show a reduction in somatic costs. On the basis of sperm competition models, we predicted a higher resource investment in the ejaculate with the reduction of pre-copulatory efforts. In line with our predictions, sperm quality of harem males improved significantly in contrast to sneaker males, whose sperm quality did not change. Without an increase in ejaculate lipid peroxidation, our results also provide evidence that the duration of sexual abstinence was not sufficient to generate sperm oxidative damage through senescence. Harem males did not show a reduction in blood lipid peroxidation or in the ratio of oxidized to reduced glutathione. In line with the maintenance of these somatic costs, harem males did not invest more superoxide dismutase to the ejaculate to maintain sperm quality. Our results suggest that a difference in copulation rate rather than an adaptation to sperm competition provides sneaker males with higher sperm quality in C. perspicillata.