Fertility of mammalian spermatozoa: its development and relativity

R. Yanagimachia1

a1 Department of Anatomy and Reproductive Biology, University of Hawaii Medical School, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA

Spermatozoa leaving the testis of normal animals are not ready to fertilise oocytes. They gain this ability while passing through the epididymis. It is interesting that spermatozoa of most animals take about 10 days to pass through the epididymis despite huge interspecies variations in the length of the epididymal tubule (e.g. some 30–50 m in large farm animals and about 1 m in the laboratory mouse) (Robaire & Hermo, 1988). The site where the spermatozoa begin to acquire fertilising capacity varies according to species, but it is generally the corpus epididymis or the proximal segment of the cauda epididymis where a large proportion of the spermatozoa become fertilisationcompetent. The distal segment of the cauda epididymis is the principal site for the storage of mature spermatozoa. Prolonged sojourn in the cauda epididymis (and vas deferens), however, could be detrimental to the spermatozoa.