Protection of Epididymal Spermatozoa from Oxidative Stress

Abstract Mammalian spermatozoa leaving the testis via the rete testis and efferent ducts start a long journey through the epididymis. During their trip along this single tubule, fertilizing potential will gradually be acquired by these spermatozoa. In fine, for most mammals, spermatozoa are stored in the distal epididymal compartment for undetermined periods of time, obviously depending on the male sexual activity. During this phase of post-testicular spermatozoa maturation and storage, the silent nature of these highly differentiated cells renders them particularly fragile and susceptible to attacks, one of which being oxidative stress. It is one of the tasks of the epididymis to provide efficient protection to the male gametes against the deleterious effects of oxidative damage that, if not counteracted, could hamper its structures and function. This is done through the concerted actions of both nonenzymatic and enzymatic primary antioxidants. This chapter intends to give the reader an updated view of the means by which the mammalian epididymis protects transiting spermatozoa from oxidative injuries.

Keywords Primary antioxidants • Nonenzymatic antioxidant • Enzymatic antioxi-dant • Disulfide bridging • Epididymal spermatozoa • Oxidative stress

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