A pilot RNA-seq study in 40 pietrain ejaculates to characterize the porcine sperm microbiome

Marta Gòdia, Yuliaxis Ramayo-Caldas, Laura M. Zingaretti, Laila Darwich, Samantha López, Joan E. Rodríguez-Gil, Marc Yeste, Armand Sánchez, Alex Clop*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The microbiome plays a key role in homeostasis and health and it has been also linked to fertility and semen quality in several animal species including swine. Despite the more than likely importance of sperm bacteria on the boar's reproductive ability and the dissemination of pathogens and antimicrobial resistance genes, the high throughput characterization of the swine sperm microbiome remains scarce. We carried RNA-seq on 40 ejaculates each from a different Pietrain boar and found that a proportion of the sequencing reads did not map to the Sus scrofa genome. The current study aimed at using these reads not belonging to pig to carry a pilot study to profile the boar sperm bacterial population and its relation with 7 semen quality traits. We found that the boar sperm contains a broad population of bacteria. The most abundant phyla were Proteobacteria (39.1%), Firmicutes (27.5%), Actinobacteria (14.9%) and Bacteroidetes (5.7%). The predominant species contaminated sperm after ejaculation from soil, faeces and water sources (Bacillus megaterium, Brachybacterium faecium, Bacillus coagulans). Some potential pathogens were also found but at relatively low levels (Escherichia coli, Clostridioides difficile, Clostridium perfringens, Clostridium botulinum and Mycobacterium tuberculosis). We also identified 3 potential antibiotic resistant genes from E. coli against chloramphenicol, Neisseria meningitidis against spectinomycin and Staphylococcus aureus against linezolid. None of these genes were highly abundant. Finally, we classified the ejaculates into categories according to their bacterial features and semen quality parameters and identified two categories that significantly differed for 5 semen quality traits and 13 bacterial features including the genera Acinetobacter, Stenotrophomonas and Rhodobacter. Our results show that boar semen contains a bacterial community, including potential pathogens and putative antibiotic resistance genes, and that these bacteria may affect its reproductive performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-533
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Microbiome
  • Pig
  • RNA-Seq
  • Sperm quality
  • Spermatozoa


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