Author(s): Aitken RJ, Clarkson JS, Fishel S
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Abstract Recent studies have demonstrated that human spermatozoa are capable of generating reactive oxygen species and that this activity is significantly accelerated in cases of defective sperm function. In view of the pivotal role played by lipid peroxidation in mediating free radical damage to cells, we have examined the relationships between reactive oxygen species production, lipid peroxidation, and the functional competence of human spermatozoa. Using malondialdehyde production in the presence of ferrous ion promoter as an index of lipid peroxidation, we have shown that lipid peroxidation is significantly accelerated in populations of defective spermatozoa exhibiting high levels of reactive oxygen species production or in normal cells stimulated to produce oxygen radicals by the ionophore, A23187. The functional consequences of lipid peroxidation included a dose-dependent reduction in the ability of human spermatozoa to exhibit sperm oocyte-fusion, which could be reversed by the inclusion of a chain-breaking antioxidant, alpha-tocopherol. Low levels of lipid peroxidation also had a slight enhancing effect on the generation of reactive oxygen species in response to ionophore, without influencing the steady-state activity. At higher levels of lipid peroxidation, both the basal level of reactive oxygen species production and the response to A23187 were significantly diminished. In contrast, lipid peroxidation had a highly significant, enhancing effect on the ability of human spermatozoa to bind to both homologous and heterologous zonae pellucidae via mechanisms that could again be reversed by alpha-tocopherol. These results are consistent with a causative role for lipid peroxidation in the etiology of defective sperm function and also suggest a possible physiological role for the reactive oxygen species generated by human spermatozoa in mediating sperm-zona interaction.
This article was published in Biol Reprod
and referenced in Biochemistry & Pharmacology: Open Access