Send to

Choose Destination
Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2013 Jul;288(1):191-9. doi: 10.1007/s00404-013-2801-4. Epub 2013 Mar 30.

Influence of reactive oxygen species on human sperm functions and fertilizing capacity including therapeutical approaches.

Author information

Department of Dermatology/Andrology Unit, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms University, 53105 Bonn, Germany.



Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are an array of molecules including oxygen-centered radicals, which are endowed with one or more unpaired electrons and non-radical oxygen derivatives such as hydrogen peroxide, which behave, to a large extent, like a double-edged sword in human sperm biology. This study aimed to overview the current knowledge of ROS in sperm physiology and pathology, as well as related therapies in spermatozoal dysfunction.


We performed this study by searching for keywords from PUBMED, including reactive oxygen species, oxidative stress, sperm function, and antioxidant therapy.


Low levels of ROS exert critical function in normal sperm physiology, such as fertilizing ability (acrosome reaction, hyperactivation, capacitation, and chemotaxis) and sperm motility; while increased ROS generation and/or decreased antioxidant capacity leads to the imbalance between oxidation and reduction in living systems, which is called sperm oxidative stress. This condition was widely considered to be a significant contributory factor to sperm DNA damage/apoptosis, lipid peroxidation, and reduced motility, which in turn, increased risk of male factor infertility/subfertility and birth defects. Under the current status quo, numerous subsequent studies have concentrated on antioxidant therapy. Although utility of such a therapeutic strategy significantly improved sperm function and motility in a myriad of experimental and clinical reports, the overall effectiveness still remains controversial mainly due to non-standardized assay to measure the level of ROS and sperm DNA damage, various antioxidant supplementation strategies, and inadequate fertilization and pregnancy data after clinical treatment. Therefore, standardized assessment and evaluation of ROS and total antioxidant capacity in semen should be established to keep ROS in a physiological level and prevent over-treatment of antioxidants toward reductive stress, which should be kept in mind, especially in assisted reproductive procedure. Moreover, the significance of large sample size populations, double-blind randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of antioxidant therapies is emphasized in this review to achieve optimal ingredients and dosage of antioxidants for patients with reactive oxygen-induced male fertility/subfertility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center