A technical assessment of the porcine ejaculated spermatozoa for a sperm-specific RNA-seq analysis

Marta Gòdia, Fabiana Quoos Mayer, Julieta Nafissi, Anna Castelló, Joan Enric Rodríguez-Gil, Armand Sánchez, Alex Clop*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/Letter to the editorAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The study of the boar sperm transcriptome by RNA-seq can provide relevant information on sperm quality and fertility and might contribute to animal breeding strategies. However, the analysis of the spermatozoa RNA is challenging as these cells harbor very low amounts of highly fragmented RNA, and the ejaculates also contain other cell types with larger amounts of non-fragmented RNA. Here, we describe a strategy for a successful boar sperm purification, RNA extraction and RNA-seq library preparation. Using these approaches our objectives were: (i) to evaluate the sperm recovery rate (SRR) after boar spermatozoa purification by density centrifugation using the non-porcine-specific commercial reagent BoviPureTM; (ii) to assess the correlation between SRR and sperm quality characteristics; (iii) to evaluate the relationship between sperm cell RNA load and sperm quality traits and (iv) to compare different library preparation kits for both total RNA-seq (SMARTer Universal Low Input RNA and TruSeq RNA Library Prep kit) and small RNA-seq (NEBNext Small RNA and TailorMix miRNA Sample Prep v2) for high-throughput sequencing. Our results show that pig SRR (~22%) is lower than in other mammalian species and that it is not significantly dependent of the sperm quality parameters analyzed in our study. Moreover, no relationship between the RNA yield per sperm cell and sperm phenotypes was found. We compared a RNA-seq library preparation kit optimized for low amounts of fragmented RNA with a standard kit designed for high amount and quality of input RNA and found that for sperm, a protocol designed to work on low-quality RNA is essential. We also compared two small RNA-seq kits and did not find substantial differences in their performance. We propose the methodological workflow described for the RNA-seq screening of the boar spermatozoa transcriptome. Abbreviations: FPKM: fragments per kilobase of transcript per million mapped reads; KRT1: keratin 1; miRNA: micro-RNA; miscRNA: miscellaneous RNA; Mt rRNA: mitochondrial ribosomal RNA; Mt tRNA: mitochondrial transference RNA; OAZ3: ornithine decarboxylase antizyme 3; ORT: osmotic resistance test; piRNA: Piwi-interacting RNA; PRM1: protamine 1; PTPRC: protein tyrosine phosphatase receptor type C; rRNA: ribosomal RNA; snoRNA: small nucleolar RNA; snRNA: small nuclear RNA; SRR: sperm recovery rate; tRNA: transfer RNA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-303
Number of pages13
JournalSystems Biology in Reproductive Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Boar sperm purification
  • RNA yield
  • RNA-seq
  • semen quality
  • sperm recovery rate


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