To assess the structural stability of mammalian sperm nuclei and make interspecies comparison, sperm nuclei from six different species were injected into hamster oocytes. The time course of sperm decondensation varied considerably by species. Male pronuclei formed in oocytes injected with human, mouse, chinchilla, and hamster sperm nuclei, but rarely in oocytes injected with bull or rat sperm nuclei. However, when bull sperm nuclei were pretreated with dithiothreitrol (DDT) in vitro to reduce protamine disulfide bonds prior to microinjection, they subsequently decondensed and formed pronuclei in the hamster ooplasm. Condensed rat spermatid nuclei, which lack disulfide bonds, behaved similarly. The same six species of sperm nuclei were induced to undergo decondensation in vitro by treatment with DTT and detergent. Human sperm nuclei decondensed the fastest in vitro, followed shortly by chinchilla, mouse, and hamster and, after a lag, by rat and bull sperm nuclei. Thus species differences in sperm nuclear stability exist and appear to be related to the extent and/or efficiency of disulfide bonding in the sperm nuclei, a feature that may, in turn, be determined by the type(s) of sperm nuclear protamine(s) present.