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Curr Med Chem. 2001 Jun;8(7):851-62.

Relative impact of oxidative stress on male reproductive function.

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  • 1Department of Urology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112-2699, USA.


Impairment of normal spermatogenesis and sperm function are the most common causes of male factor infertility. Abnormal sperm function is difficult to evaluate and treat. There is a lack of understanding of the factors contributing to normal and abnormal sperm function leading to infertility. Many recent studies indicate that oxygen-derived free radicals induce damage to spermatozoa. The excessive generation of these reactive oxygen species (superoxide, hydroxyl, nitric oxide, peroxide, peroxynitrile) by immature and abnormal spermatozoa and by contaminating leukocytes associated with genitourinary tract inflammation have been identified with idiopathic male infertility. Mammalian spermatozoa membranes are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. This makes them very susceptible to oxygen-induced damage, which is mediated by lipid peroxidation. In a normal situation, the antioxidant mechanisms present in the reproductive tissues and their secretions are likely to quench these reactive oxygen species (ROS) and protect against oxidative damage to gonadal cells and mature spermatozoa. During chronic disease states, aging, toxin exposure, or genitourinary infection/inflammation, these cellular antioxidant mechanisms downplay and create a situation called oxidative stress. Thus, a balance between ROS generation and antioxidant capacity plays a critical role in the pathophysiology of disease state. Recent efforts towards the development of new reliable assays to evaluate this oxidative stress status have resulted in the establishment of ROS-TAC score. Such assessment of oxidative stress status (OSS) may help in designing newer modes of male factor infertility treatment by suitable antioxidants.

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