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The paternal toolbox for embryo development and health

Nicoletta Tarozzi, Marco Nadalini, Giovanni Coticchio, Carlotta Zacà, Cristina Lagalla, Andrea Borini Molecular Human Reproduction, Volume 27, Issue 7, July 2021, gaab042, https://doi.org/10.1093/molehr/gaab042 – Published:30 June 2021  Abstract The sperm is essential for reconstitution of embryonic diploidy and highly specialized developmental functions. Immediately after gamete fusion, the sperm-borne PLC-zeta triggers activation, generating intracellular free Ca2+ oscillations. Mutations in the PLC-zeta encoding gene are associated with the absence of this factor in mature sperm and inability to achieve fertilization. Sperm play also a role in the greater game of the choreography of fertilization. In the human, the sperm centrioles are introduced into the oocyte environment with gamete fusion. They interact with the oocyte cytoskeletal apparatus to form a functional pair of centrosomes and ultimately regulate pronuclear juxtaposition in preparation for the first cleavage. As a consequence, the fidelity of chromosome segregation during the first cell divisions depends on the function of sperm centrioles. Sperm DNA integrity is essential for embryo development and health. Damaged DNA does not impact on the sperm fertilization ability following ICSI. However, detrimental effects emerge at pre- and post-implantation stages. Sperm-specific epigenetic factors also play an active role in the regulation of embryonic development, as shown by correlations between reduced embryo morphological quality and incorrect chromatin packaging during spermiogenesis or abnormal methylation of sperm CpG islands. This functional landscape demonstrates that the contribution of the sperm to development goes far beyond its well-established role in fertilization. Clinical studies confirm this view and indicate sperm function as a crucial aspect of research to increase the efficacy of assisted reproduction treatments.

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