This study aimed to investigate the effects of long-chain fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), linoleic acid (LA), oleic acid (OA) and palmitic acid (PA)) at concentrations of 10-100 mu M, on extended bull spermatozoa stored in vitro for up to 7 days. Progressive linear motion (PLM), viability (Experiments 1-3), ability to penetrate artificial mucus (Experiment 1), reactive oxygen species (ROS; Experiment 2) and superoxide production (Experiment 3) were assessed. Spermatozoa maintained the ability to penetrate artificial mucus up to Day 4, irrespective of treatment. In Experiments 2 and 3, DHA and EPA had detrimental effects on PLM and viability. PA preserved PLM and viability at levels greater than the control (P < 0.05), whilst keeping ROS levels to a minimum, particularly on Days 1 and 3 (P < 0.01) when ROS generation peaked in other treatments. In contrast, superoxide production peaked on Day 0 (Experiment 3) and declined thereafter with no significant effect of fatty acid. This study supports the notion that superoxide dominates on Day 0, whereas its breakdown products, hydrogen peroxide and the hydroxyl radical as assessed by CM-H(2)DCFDA, contribute to ROS generation on subsequent days.