A High-throughput Method for Unbiased Quantitation and Categorization of Nuclear Morphology

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Biological Sciences


Chromatin, Species-specific, Sperm development, Nucleus, Morphology, Quantification


The physical arrangement of chromatin in the nucleus is cell type and species-specific, a fact particularly evident in sperm, in which most of the cytoplasm has been lost. Analysis of the characteristic falciform (“hook shaped”) sperm in mice is important in studies of sperm development, hybrid sterility, infertility, and toxicology. However, quantification of sperm shape differences typically relies on subjective manual assessment, rendering comparisons within and between samples difficult.

We have developed an analysis program for morphometric analysis of asymmetric nuclei and characterized the sperm of mice from a range of inbred, outbred, and wild-derived mouse strains. We find that laboratory strains have elevated sperm shape variability both within and between samples in comparison to wild-derived inbred strains, and that sperm shape in F1 offspring from a cross between CBA and C57Bl6J strains is subtly affected by the direction of the cross. We further show that hierarchical clustering can discriminate distinct sperm shapes with greater efficiency and reproducibility than even experienced manual assessors, and is useful both to distinguish between samples and also to identify different morphological classes within a single sample.

Our approach allows for the analysis of nuclear shape with unprecedented precision and scale and will be widely applicable to different species and different areas of biology.

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