This study evaluated the plasma membrane integrity, acrosomal membrane integrity, and mitochondrial membrane potential of Nelore bull sperm from early puberty to early sexual maturity and their associations with sperm motility and vigor, the mass motility of the spermatozoa (wave motion), scrotal circumference, and testosterone. Sixty Nelore bulls aged 18 to 19 months were divided into four lots (n=15 bulls/lot) and evaluated over 280 days. Semen samples, collected every 56 days by electroejaculation, were evaluated soon after collection for motility, vigor and wave motion under an optical microscope. Sperm membrane integrity, acrosomal integrity, and mitochondrial activity were evaluated under a fluorescent microscope using probe association (FITC-PSA, PI, JC-1, H342). The sperm were classified into eight integrity categories depending on whether they exhibited intact or damaged membranes, an intact or damaged acrosomal membrane, and high or low mitochondrial potential. The results show that bulls have a low amount of sperm with intact membranes at puberty, and the sperm show low motility, vigor, and wave motion; however, in bulls at early sexual maturity, the integrity of the sperm membrane increased significantly. The rate of sperm membrane damage was negatively correlated with motility, vigor, wave motion, and testosterone in the bulls, and a positive correlation existed between sperm plasma membrane integrity and scrotal circumference. The integrity of the acrosomal membrane was not influenced by puberty. During puberty and into early sexual maturity, bulls show low sperm mitochondrial potential, but when bulls reached sexual maturity, high membrane integrity with high mitochondrial potential was evident.
sexual development; sperm motility; sperm vigor; testosterone; cattle