University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Research has shown that peripheral blood cell populations change in response to an immune challenge, and hormone concentrations directly affect sperm characteristics. The objective of this study was to utilize immune responses and hormone concentrations as biomarkers for yearling bull sperm motility. Seventeen Brahman-influenced bulls (mean age 1.1 ± 0.1 yr; body weight 478 ± 38 kg) were administered an intraperitoneal injection of lipopolysaccharide (Salmonella typhimirium 0.7 µg/kg of body weight). Blood was collected 0, 3, 6, 9, and 24 h after LPS injection then analyzed for differential cell count and endocrine concentrations of prolactin, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF), and cortisol. Semen was collected using electroejaculation every month for five months then analyzed for motility and morphology characteristics. Hormone concentrations and immune response had an effect on sperm characteristics. Number of sperm was correlated (r > 0.65; P < 0.01) with the IGF to prolactin ratio. Using stepwise regression analysis, we predicted that number of sperm = 172.43 + 12.8 (IGF:prolactin), r2 = 0.43, and progressive sperm motility = -1469.6 + 1.63 (IGF:cortisol) + 14.41 (average temperature during immune challenge), r2 = 0.43. This study showed that endocrine response to stress and activation of the immune system was associated with subsequent sperm motility characteristics. Our results suggest that endocrine and immune responses may be used as biomarkers for sperm motility. Those biomarkers may be useful in selecting replacement bulls.