Populations of sturgeon across the globe are threatened due to unregulated harvest and habitat loss, and the status varies among species across North America. Ready access to viable and functional sperm would contribute to recovery programmes for these species. In this study, we examined the motility, viability (cell membrane integrity) of cryopreserved sperm from three North American acipenseriform species and fertilizing capacity. Milt samples were collected from captive shortnose sturgeon (Acipenser brevirostrum), wild paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) and pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) and cryopreserved using combinations of Modified Tsvetkova's (MT) extender, Original Tsvetkova's extender, and modified Hanks' balanced salt solution, along with the cryoprotectants methanol (MeOH) or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO). A dual-staining technique using the fluorescent stains SYBR-14 and propidium iodide was employed with flow cytometry to determine the percentages of spermatozoa that were viable by virtue of having intact membranes. The percentage of viable spermatozoa ranged from 5% to 12% in shortnose sturgeon, 30-59% in paddlefish, and 44-58% in pallid sturgeon. In the first experiment with shortnose sturgeon sperm, methanol allowed for higher values for dependent variables than did DMSO, and sperm viability generally correlated with post-thaw motility. However, fertilization rate, neurulation, or hatching rates were independent from these factors. In the second experiment with shortnose sturgeon, 5% MeOH combined with MT yielded higher values for all parameters tested than the other combinations: viability was correlated with motility, fertilization rate, and hatching rate. Overall, viability and post-thaw motility was not affected by the use of hyperosmotic extenders (OT) or cryoprotectants (DMSO), but their use decreased fertilization percentages. For paddlefish sperm (experiment 3), MT combined with 10% MeOH was clearly a good choice for cryopreservation; viability and motility results were correlated, but independent of fertilization. For pallid sturgeon sperm (experiment 4), MT with 5-10% MeOH showed significantly higher sperm quality and fertilization parameters. Membrane integrity can be used as a predictor of fertilization by cryopreserved sperm, however additional sperm quality parameters, supplementary to motility and membrane integrity, would be useful in the refining and optimizing cryopreservation protocols with acipenseriform sperm. ?? 2008 Blackwell Verlag, Berlin.