Volume 53 (2007) Issue 4 Pages 853-865
This study attempted to explain the mechanisms regulating boar fertility by examining seasonal changes in semen characteristics, the composition of seminal plasma and responsiveness of sperm acrosomes to Ca2+ and the Ca2+ ionophore A23187 (Ca2+/A23187). Sperm-rich and sperm-poor fractions were separately collected from 3 mature fertile Large White boars once a month over a one-year period. During the period of study, ambient temperature and relative humidity were recorded for within the stall in which the boars were kept and the semen characteristics, composition of the seminal plasma of sperm-rich fractions, and occurrence of the acrosome reaction in response to Ca2+ (3 mM)/A23187 (0.3 μM) were examined. The highest mean maximum and minimum ambient temperatures were recorded in August-September, whereas the lowest mean maximum and minimum ambient temperatures were recorded in December and January, respectively. There was a moderate peak in relative humidity from July to October. The lowest percentages of motile spermatozoa and of spermatozoa with intact acrosomes and highest percentage of spermatozoa with abnormal morphology and strongest agglutination were seen in August-September. The total protein and albumin concentrations were lowest in August-September. Testosterone levels increased gradually as day length decreased after the summer solstice (June) and peaked in October-November. The percentage of acrosome reactions in response to Ca2+/A23187 was highest with the quickest response in August-September, as shown by the shortest time required for 50% of relative acrosome reactions. The farrowing rates were lowest in these same 2 months. These results suggest that seasonal infertility in Large White boars may be due, at least in part, to a combination of low motility, abnormal morphology including acrosomal abnormality, and early occurrence of the acrosome reaction in response to stimulus, possibly resulting from a decrease in acrosomal stabilizing proteins in the seminal plasma during summer. These changes may be modulated by heat/humidity stress and/or photoperiod-regulated testosterone.