Cysteine improves boar sperm quality via glutathione biosynthesis during the liquid storage

  • Zhu, Zhendong (College of Animal Science and Technology, Qingdao Agricultural University) ;
  • Zeng, Yao (Key Laboratory of Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction of Shaanxi Province, College of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University) ;
  • Zeng, Wenxian (Key Laboratory of Animal Genetics, Breeding and Reproduction of Shaanxi Province, College of Animal Science and Technology, Northwest A&F University)
  • Received : 2021.03.31
  • Accepted : 2021.07.04
  • Published : 2022.02.01


Objective: Sperm is particularly susceptible to reactive oxygen species (ROS) stress. Glutathione (GSH) is an endogenous antioxidant that regulates sperm redox homeostasis. However, it is not clear whether boar sperm could utilize cysteine for synthesis GSH to protect sperm quality from ROS damage. Therefore, the present study was undertaken to elucidate the mechanism of how cysteine is involved in protecting boar sperm quality during liquid storage. Methods: Sperm motility, membrane integrity, lipid peroxidation, 4-hydroxyIlonenal (4-HNE) modifications, mitochondrial membrane potential, as well as the levels of ROS, GSH, and, ATP were evaluated. Moreover, the enzymes (GCLC: glutamate cysteine ligase; GSS: glutathione synthetase) that are involved in glutathione synthesis from cysteine precursor were detected by western blotting. Results: Compared to the control, addition of 1.25 mM cysteine to the liquid storage significantly increased boar sperm progressive motility, straight-line velocity, curvilinear velocity, beat-cross frequency, membrane integrity, mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP level, acrosome integrity, activities of superoxide dismutase and catalase, and GSH level, while reducing the ROS level, lipid peroxidation and 4-HNE modifications. It was also observed that the GCLC and GSS were expressed in boar sperm. Interestingly, when we used menadione to induce sperm with ROS stress, the menadione associated damages were observed to be reduced by the cysteine supplementation. Moreover, compared to the cysteine treatment, the γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γ-GCS) activity, GSH level, mitochondrial membrane potential, ATP level, membrane integrity and progressive motility in boar sperm were decreased by supplementing with an inhibitor of GSH synthesis, buthionine sulfoximine. Conclusion: These data suggest that boar sperm could biosynthesize the GSH from cysteine in vitro. Therefore, during storage, addition of cysteine improves boar sperm quality via enhancing the GSH synthesis to resist ROS stress.



This study was supported in part by the National Key R&D Program of China (NO. 2018YFD0501001) for W Zeng.


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