ROS and Semen Quality

Ralf Henkel

Abstract Infertility affects an estimate of 50-80 x106 (=7-15% of men at reproductive age) men globally and annually. Among these men, a large number of patients (25-40%) suffer from male genital tract infection/inflammation, conditions where reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress in the semen play prominent roles in the pathogenesis of infertility. Considering the extraordinary high amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids present in the plasma membrane, spermatozoa are exceptionally prone to oxidative damage. This damage may include the plasma membrane including the flagellar structure as well as the DNA. Thereby, sperm functions are damaged. As natural protective mechanisms, several antioxi-dants, enzymatic, non-enzymatic and preventive, are available in the seminal plasma. However, considering that certain essential physiological sperm functions are dependent on a limited amount of ROS, the balance between oxidation and reduction is of utmost importance. Clinically, this balance should be determined by estimating the seminal oxidative stress and antioxidant capacity.

Key words ROS • Semen quality • Leukocytes • Male germ cells • Leukocytospermia • Spermatozoa • Detrimental effects of ROS • Impact of varicoceles

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