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Diversity of extracellular vesicles in human ejaculates revealed by cryo-electron microscopy

Journal article
Authors Johanna L Höög
Jan Lötvall
Published in Journal of Extracellular Vesicles
Volume 4
Pages 28680
ISSN 2001-3078
Publication year 2015
Published at Krefting Research Centre
Pages 28680
Language en
Keywords fertility, electron microscopy, vesicles, cryo-electron microscopy
Subject categories Biological Sciences, Structural Biology, Cell Biology, Basic Medicine, Cell and Molecular Biology


Human ejaculates contain extracellular vesicles (EVs), that to a large extent are considered to originate from the prostate gland, and are often denominated ‘‘prostasomes.’’ These EVs are important for human fertility, for example by promoting sperm motility and by inducing immune tolerance of the female immune system to the spermatozoa. So far, the EVs present in human ejaculate have not been studied in their native state, inside the seminal fluid without prior purification and isolation procedures. Using cryo-electron microscopy and tomography, we performed a comprehensive inventory of human ejaculate EVs. The sample was neither centrifuged, fixed, filtered or sectioned, nor were heavy metals added. Approximately 1,500 extracellular structures were imaged and categorized. The extracellular environment of human ejaculate was found to be diverse, with 5 major subcategories of EVs and 6 subcategories of extracellular membrane compartments, including lamellar bodies. Furthermore, 3 morphological features, including electron density, double membrane bilayers and coated surface, are described in all subcategories. This study reveals that the extracellular environment in human ejaculate is multifaceted. Several novel morphological EV subcategories are identified and clues to their cellular origin may be found in their morphology. This inventory is therefore important for developing future experimental approaches, and to interpret previously published data to understand the role of EVs for human male fertility.

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