General Background

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) (superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl) are products of the normal cell oxidative metabolism, mainly mitochondrial, through enzymatic oxygen reduction reactions to produce energy [1]. Under physiological

E. Vicari, MD • S.L. Vignera, MD • A.E. Calogero, MD (*) Department of Internal Medicine and Systemic Diseases, Policlinico "G. Rodolico", Catania, Italy e-mail: [email protected]

A. Agarwal et al. (eds.), Studies on Men's Health and Fertility, Oxidative Stress 551

in Applied Basic Research and Clinical Practice, DOI 10.1007/978-1-61779-776-7_25, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

conditions, ROS production plays an important regulatory role, named "mediator of conception" [2], in various steps of the male reproductive process (sperm capacita-tion, acrosome reaction, sperm hyperactivation, binding to the zona pellucida; sperm-oocyte fusion) [3]. On the other hand, oxidative stress (OS) occurs when the generation of ROS exceeds the system's ability to neutralize or eliminate them. Hence, OS may result from an elevated ROS production and/or a reduced total anti-oxidant capacity.

Before ROS production is measured, confounding factors should be excluded, since both the same cells that generate low concentrations of ROS under physiological conditions [4] and cells (leukocytes, macrophages, spermiophages) triggered by the infection and by the dynamic of the chronic inflammatory process contribute to ROS overproduction. Confounding factors include certain lifestyles (smoking, alcohol consumption, drugs) and systemic and male reproductive tract diseases, such as primary testiculopaties cause of OS (cryptorchidism, varicocele, postorchitis tes-ticular atrophy, occupational/environmental pollutants, testicular cancer) [5].

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