Morphological and ultrastructural alterations of zebrafish (Danio rerio) spermatozoa after motility activation

Paula Sáez-Espinosa, Cristina Franco-Esclapez, Laura Robles-Gómez, Willian T. A. F. Silva, Alejandro Romero, Simone Immler, María José Gómez-Torres

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
1 Downloads (Pure)


Spermatozoa motility in freshwater and marine fish is mainly controlled by the difference in osmotic pressure. Specifically, zebrafish (Danio rerio) spermatozoa undergo hypoosmotic shock due to the decrease in extracellular potassium, which leads to membrane hyperpolarization and activation of flagellar motility. Previous studies have concluded that motility activation has a negative effect on the spermatozoa structure. However, no evidence exists about ultrastructural changes in zebrafish spermatozoa after motility activation. In this study, spermatozoa samples were obtained from ten adult zebrafish individuals before and 60 seconds after motility activation and analyzed using Scanning and Transmission Electron Microscopy. Results showed dramatic morphological and ultrastructural alterations of the zebrafish spermatozoa after activation. In particular, the spermatozoa head underwent severe morphological distortion, including swelling of the nucleus, the bursting of the plasma membrane, and the alteration of the genetic material. Midpieces were also affected after activation since rupture of the cell membrane and lysis of mitochondria occurred. Furthermore, after the hypoosmotic shock, most spermatozoa showed a coiled flagellum and a disaggregated plasma membrane. Overall, our findings show that the activation of motility leads to substantial zebrafish spermatozoa morphological and ultrastructural changes, which could modify their physiology and decrease the fertilizing potential.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-115
Number of pages8
Early online date31 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Motility activation
  • Sperm morphology
  • Ultrastructure microscopy
  • Zebrafish

Cite this