The osmolality of spermatozoa in the cauda epididymidis must approximate that measured in the vas deferens (342mmol/kg: Hinton et al., 1981) but fluids in the female tract have been measured to be 276-302 mmol/kg (Edwards, 1974; Casslen and Nilsson, 1984; Menezo et al., 1982; Rossato et al., 1996). Thus within the female tract upon ejaculation spermatozoa should be considered to suffer a hypotonic challenge, especially as it is commonly held that seminal plasma is hyperosmotic (Rossato et al., 2002). Recently, however, measurements of the sperm-rich, prostatic fraction of split ejaculates (Bjorndahl and Kvist, 2003) and unliquefied whole semen measured within 5 min of ejaculation (Cooper et al., 2005) have revealed osmolalities in these fluids to be 294-304 mmol/kg, that is within the female range. This demonstrates that the osmotic challenge actually occurs within the male urethra during the ejaculatory process and that cell swelling would be anticipated within the female tract unless otherwise prevented.
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