Author(s): Marshburn PB
OBJECTIVE: To discuss the role of antisperm antibodies (Ab) in infertility, including proposed mechanisms of antisperm Ab formation, assays for their detection, and treatments for immune-mediated infertility. DESIGN: Major studies in the published literature and data from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology. Reports were reviewed that investigated the development and impact of alloimmunity and autoimmunity to spermatozoa in men and alloimmunity in women and the current methods of treatment for resultant subfertility. RESULTS: The exposure of spermatozoal antigens to the mucosal and systemic immune systems results in development of immunity to a multiplicity of spermatozoal epitopes. The evaluation of studies that examine the role of antisperm Ab in infertility is complicated by the lack of standardization of antisperm Ab assays and the difficulty in identifying those epitopes for antisperm Ab binding that are responsible for subfertility. Sperm-associated antisperm Ab and antisperm Ab in cervical mucus (CM) reduce sperm mobility and may also impair sperm-ovum interaction. The clinical significance of serum antisperm Ab in both men and women, however, is controversial. Current therapy for antisperm Ab associated infertility is empiric and largely unproven. CONCLUSIONS: Antisperm Ab on the sperm surface and in CM are implicated in the pathogenesis of a subset of patients with infertility. Further studies that determine the clinically relevant sites of antisperm Ab interaction will aid in directing the treatment of subfertility mediated by antisperm Ab.