Polyspermy is generally considered a pathological phenomenon in mammals. Incidence of polyspermy in porcine eggs in vivo is extremely high (30-40%) compared with other species, and polyspermy rate in the in vitro fertilized eggs in pigs can reach 65%. It is still unknown whether polyspermy to a certain degree is a physiological condition in pigs, and whether porcine eggs have any capability with which to remove the accessory sperm in the cytoplasm. The objectives in the present study are to observe the ultrastructural changes of accessory sperm during early embryonic development in pigs. A total of 58 normal, early embryos at one-, two, three-, and four-cell and morular stages were collected from gilts and were studied by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The surface ultrastructure showed that sperm fusion with the zona pellucida was a continuous process during one-, two-, three-, and four-cell and morular stages, as observed by the SEM. Accessory sperm were present in the cytoplasm of cleaved embryos. The sperm heads in the cytoplasm of cleaved embryos did not decondense. TEM revealed the presence of a condensed sperm head within a lysosome (or phagolysosome) in a three-cell embryo. These observations suggest that polyspermy may be a physiological condition in pigs and that early embryos may develop to term if accessory sperm do not interrupt the embryo genome. Furthermore, lysosome activity could be another physiological mechanism for removing accessory sperm in the cytoplasm of fertilized eggs and cleaved embryos after fertilization in pigs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Cell Biology