Origin of ROS in Semen

In an ejaculate, there are two major sources of ROS, namely, leukocytes and the male germ cells themselves. Leukocytes physiologically generate high amounts of ROS, since this process plays a major role in infections, inflammations and cellular defence mechanisms to kill pathogens. If activated, leukocyte ROS generation can be up to 1,000-times higher than that of spermatozoa [9, 13]. In addition, ROS and oxidative stress in semen can also be caused by numerous other factors (for review see [14, 15]). Among them are exogenous sources such as environmental pollution by heavy metals [16] or other chemical compounds [17], and even lifestyle factors such as obesity [18], smoking [19], alcohol consumption [20] and certain medical conditions such as spinal cord injuries [21] or varicoceles [22],

Moreover, in a recent report, Cocuzza et al. [23] described a significant increase in seminal ROS production in men older than 40 years of age. Despite these higher seminal ROS levels in older men, no increase in the seminal leukocyte concentration was found. The latter observation was also described by Henkel et al. [24], Yet, these authors demonstrated a significantly higher prevalence of male genital tract infections in older men as determined by means of the concentration of polymorphonuclear elastase. This interpretation would be consistent with the fact that age-related changes in leukocyte activity include increased secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines [25] which, in turn, stimulate increased ROS generation in spermatozoa with subsequent damage of membrane function by lipid peroxidation (LPO) [26],

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