Although sperm head-to-head agglutination has been reported in many mammalian species, the biological significance of this unique sperm-sperm interaction remains largely unknown. Here, we aimed to examine the functional characteristics of agglutinated bovine sperm to determine the possible role of sperm agglutination in the fertilization process. We initially examined temporal changes to the degree of head-to-head agglutination in culture, and found that bovine sperm agglutinated despite the lack of sperm agglutination inducers in medium. Sperm viability and motility were evaluated by SYBR14/PI and JC-1 staining, respectively, to identify the relationship between sperm agglutination and fertilizing ability. Agglutinated sperm had increased motility, viability, and intact mitochondrial function compared with unagglutinated sperm. Furthermore, we found that heparin significantly increased the percentage of unagglutinated sperm, but did not affect viability of both agglutinated and unagglutinated sperm, suggesting that sperm agglutination dictated the viability. In conclusion, agglutinated bovine sperm maintained viability and motility for a longer time than unagglutinated sperm. Thus, we propose that the head-to-head agglutination is a crucial sperm-sperm interaction to ensure the fertilizing ability of sperm.
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