Effect of heparin on in vitro capacitation of boar sperm
Chlortetracycline (CTC) fluorescent pattern, the ability to undergo acrosome reaction (AR) upon exposure to 10 µM calcium ionophore A23187 and vitality estimation were used to investigate the effect of the sulfated glycosaminoglycan heparin on the in vitro capacitation of porcine spermatozoa. Sperm incubation in capacitating medium (CM) supplemented with 10 mM heparin for up to 120 min, showed an increase in the number of capacitated sperm (B pattern) and acrosome reacted sperm (AR pattern), without affecting their viability. In this condition, spermatozoa were incubated in CM depleted of albumin, calcium, bicarbonate or combinations, in the presence of heparin. In either calcium or bicarbonate-free media, capacitation was only basal and did not show variations in the presence of heparin. In absence of albumin the presence of calcium and bicarbonate stimulated capacitation, which was further increased by the addition of heparin. These results suggest that heparin enhances in vitro capacitation of porcine sperm only under capacitating conditions. Additionally, when sperm were incubated with 100 µg/ml biotinylated heparin in the presence or absence of unlabeled heparin, we observed that heparin binding sites were located mostly on the acrosomal region of boar sperm in an specific and saturable manner. The in vitro effect of heparin described in this work indicates that sulfated glycosaminoglycans, which are normally present in the female reproductive tract, might play an important role in the fertilization process in porcines.