Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology

A free radical theory of male infertility

RJ Aitken

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 6(1) 19 - 23
Published: 1994


There is a growing body of evidence to indicate that a significant factor in the aetiology of male infertility involves a loss of sperm function as a consequence of oxidative stress. This stress originates from the excessive generation of reactive oxygen species by the spermatozoa and results in the peroxidation of unsaturated fatty acids in the sperm plasma membrane. It is possible that reactive oxygen species originating from infiltrating leucocytes could also stress the spermatozoa although the protective properties of seminal plasma would render this unlikely in vivo. Whatever the source of the reactive oxygen species, the lipid peroxides thereby generated exhibit powerful negative correlations with the movement characteristics of the spermatozoa and their capacity for sperm-oocyte fusion. These findings should have important implications for the development of rational techniques for the diagnosis and treatment of male infertility.

© CSIRO 1994

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