Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) have highly variable ejaculate quality within individuals, greatly reducing the efficacy of artificial insemination and making it difficult to devise a sperm cryopreservation protocol for this endangered species. Because seminal plasma influences sperm function and physiology, including sperm motility, the objectives of this study were to characterize the chemistry and protein profiles of Asian elephant seminal plasma and to determine the relationships between seminal plasma components and semen quality. Ejaculates exhibiting good sperm motility (≥65%) expressed higher percentages of spermatozoa with normal morphology (80.3+-13.0 vs. 44.9+-30.8%) and positive Spermac staining (51.9+-14.5 vs. 7.5+-14.4%), in addition to higher total volume (135.1+-89.6 vs. 88.8+-73.1 ml) and lower sperm concentration (473.0+-511.2 vs. 1313.8+-764.7 x 106 cells ml-1) compared to ejaculates exhibiting poor sperm motility (≤10%; P<0.05). Comparison of seminal plasma from ejaculates with good versus poor sperm motility revealed significant differences in concentrations of creatine phosphokinase, alanine aminotransferase, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, magnesium, and glucose. These observations suggest seminal plasma influences semen quality in elephants. One- and two-dimensional (2D) gel electrophoresis revealed largely similar compositional profiles of seminal plasma proteins between good and poor motility ejaculates. However, a protein of ~80 kDa was abundant in 85% of ejaculates with good motility, and was absent in 90% of poor motility ejaculates (P<0.05). We used mass spectrometry to identify this protein as lactotransferrin, and immunoblot analysis to confirm this identification. Together, these findings lay a functional foundation for understanding the contributions of seminal plasma in the regulation of Asian elephant sperm motility, and for improving semen collection and storage in this endangered species.


Animal Science

Document Type


Additional Information

This work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain Dedication.



Rights Information

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.

Publication Date


Journal Title

PloS one