Semi-automated scoring of triple-probe FISH in human sperm using confocal microscopy

Francesca Branch, Gia Linh Nguyen, Nicholas Porter, Heather A. Young, Sheena E. Martenies, Nathan McCray, Glen Deloid, Anastas Popratiloff, Melissa J. Perry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Structural and numerical sperm chromosomal aberrations result from abnormal meiosis and are directly linked to infertility. Any live births that arise from aneuploid conceptuses can result in syndromes such as Kleinfelter, Turners, XYY and Edwards. Multi-probe fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is commonly used to study sperm aneuploidy, however manual FISH scoring in sperm samples is labor-intensive and introduces errors. Automated scoring methods are continuously evolving. One challenging aspect for optimizing automated sperm FISH scoring has been the overlap in excitation and emission of the fluorescent probes used to enumerate the chromosomes of interest. Our objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of combining confocal microscopy and spectral imaging with high-throughput methods for accurately measuring sperm aneuploidy. Our approach used confocal microscopy to analyze numerical chromosomal abnormalities in human sperm using enhanced slide preparation and rigorous semi-automated scoring methods. FISH for chromosomes X, Y, and 18 was conducted to determine sex chromosome disomy in sperm nuclei. Application of online spectral linear unmixing was used for effective separation of four fluorochromes while decreasing data acquisition time. Semi-automated image processing, segmentation, classification, and scoring were performed on 10 slides using custom image processing and analysis software and results were compared with manual methods. No significant differences in disomy frequencies were seen between the semi automated and manual methods. Samples treated with pepsin were observed to have reduced background autofluorescence and more uniform distribution of cells. These results demonstrate that semi-automated methods using spectral imaging on a confocal platform are a feasible approach for analyzing numerical chromosomal aberrations in sperm, and are comparable to manual methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-866
Number of pages8
JournalCytometry Part A
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • aneuploidy
  • chromosomal abnormality
  • confocal microscopy
  • Fluorescence in situ hybridization
  • human spermatozoa
  • sex chromosome disomy
  • spectral imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology

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