Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 188, Issue 2, pp 251–260 | Cite as

Human Sperm Characteristics with Regard to Cobalt, Chromium, and Lead in Semen and Activity of Catalase in Seminal Plasma

  • Urszula Marzec-Wróblewska
  • Piotr KamińskiEmail author
  • Paweł Łakota
  • Marek Szymański
  • Karolina Wasilow
  • Grzegorz Ludwikowski
  • Leszek Jerzak
  • Tomasz Stuczyński
  • Alina Woźniak
  • Adam Buciński


We analyzed cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), and lead (Pb) concentrations in human semen and catalase CAT activity in seminal plasma and the effects of their relations on the sperm quality. We obtained semen samples from men (n = 168) undergoing routine infertility evaluation. Studies included two groups based on the ejaculate parameters: I (n = 39; normal ejaculate; normozoospermia); II (n = 129; pathological spermiogram). We examined relationships and differences between Co, Cr, and Pb concentrations in seminal plasma, CAT activity, and semen parameters. We did not establish differences in Co, Cr, and Pb concentrations and CAT activity from men between normozoospermic and those with pathological spermiogram. We found a significantly lower Co concentration and CAT activity in males with normal sperm motility than in asthenozoospermic males. We found significantly lower Co and a higher Pb concentration in males with normal morphology of spermatozoa than in teratozoospermic males. We found a significantly higher Pb concentration in the individuals with consumption of alcohol than in those without consumption. There were significant correlations between Co and Pb concentrations, sperm progressive motility (A + B, i.e., fast and slow progressive motility; Co—negatively; Pb—positively), and normal morphology of spermatozoa (Co—negatively; Pb—positively). We found a significant negative correlation between Cr concentration and slow progressive motility, and between CAT activity and volume of ejaculate. Co, Cr, and Pb levels and CAT activity were related to sperm characteristics and male fertility. The impact of alcohol may be manifested by a disturbance in Pb equilibrium in the body. Co and Pb influence progressive motility and normal morphology of human spermatozoa. Thus, Co and Pb levels in semen may be a useful diagnostic in male infertility. Most of the results of this study are in contrast to expectations. Namely, Pb is a toxic element and its harmful effects (poor semen quality) may be expected already at relatively low level of Pb exposure and are particularly visible with increasing of Pb. Co and Cr(III) are essential elements and harmful effects may be expected at their deficiency and/or overexposure.


Male infertility Seminal plasma Cobalt Chromium Lead Catalase Semen parameters 



We thank Professor Brendan P. Kavanagh (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) for his help with improving English language of the paper.

Funding Information

This work was supported by grant number 47-2008 from the Rector Magnificus of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. This work was supported by the European Social Fund and State budget within the framework of the Integrated Program of Operating Regional Development, the Activity 2.6 “Regional Innovative Strategies and Knowledge Transfer” of individual project of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Province: “Scholarships for Graduate Students of 2008/2009–ZPORR.” This work was also supported by maintain a research capacities fund from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń (DS-UPB 469/2015).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

This study was undertaken following the Guidelines of the European Union Council and the current laws in Poland, according to the Bioethical Commission (05/2005). The work acquired the permission of the Local Bioethics Committee for Bioethical Research of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Poland (application number KB/538/2007). The participants in the study signed an informed consent form.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Iammarrone E, Balet R, Lower AM, Gillott C, Grudzinskas JG (2003) Male infertility. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol 2:211–229Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wdowiak A, Wdowiak A, Moroz E, Bojar I (2016a) Comparison of selected sperm parameters between 6,278 males in Poland and Ukraine. Ann Agric Environ Med 23:174–181. Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Abou-Shakra FR, Ward NI, Everard DM (1989) The role of trace elements in male infertility. Fertil Steril 52(2):307–310Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) (2005) Third national report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) (2003) Toxicological profile for selenium, Atlanta, GA, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease RegistryGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) (2004) Toxicological profile for copper. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, GAGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) (2005) Toxicological profile for zinc. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, GAGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Greger JL (1999) Nutrition versus toxicology of manganese in humans: evaluation of potential biomarkers. Neurotoxicology 20:205–212Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    IOM (Institute of Medicine) (2001) Dietary reference intakes for vitamin A, vitamin K, arsenic, boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and zinc: a report of the panel on micronutrients. Nat. Acad. Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Anjum MR, Sainath SB, Suneetha Y, Reddy PS (2011) Lead acetate induced reproductive and paternal mediated developmental toxicity in rats. Ecotoxicol Environ Safety 74(4):793–799Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Li H, Chen Q, Li S, Yao W, Li L, Shi X, Wang L, Castranova V, Vallyathan V, Ernst E, Chen C (2001) Effect of Cr(VI) exposure on sperm quality: human and animal studies. Ann Occup Hyg 45(7):505–511Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mollenhauer HH, Corrier DE, Clark DE, Hare MF, Elissalde MH (1985) Effects of dietary cobalt on testicular structure. Virchows Arch B Cell Pathol Incl Mol Pathol 49(3):241–248Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pereira ML, Neves RP, Oliveira H, Santos TM, Jesus JP (2005) Effect of Cr(V) on reproductive organ morphology and sperm parameters: an experimental study in mice. Environ Health 4(9):1–6Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kabata-Pendias A, Szteke B (2012) Pierwiastki śladowe w geo-i biosferze. Wyd Nauk IUNG-PIB, Puławy, pp 270Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Subramanian S, Rajendiran G, Sekhar P, Gowri C, Govindarajulu P, Aruldhas MM (2006) Reproductive toxicity of chromium in adult bonnet monkeys (Macadam radiata Geoffrey). Reversible oxidative stress in the semen. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 215(3):237–249Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Aruldhas MM, Subramanian S, Sekar P, Vengatesh G, Chandrahasan G, Govindarajulu P, Akbarsha MA (2005) Chronic chromium exposure-induced changes in testicular histoarchitecture are associated with oxidative stress: study in a non-human primate (Macaca radiata Geoffroy). Hum Reprod 20(10):2801–2813Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Acharya UR, Mishra M, Tripathy RR, Mishra I (2006) Testicular dysfunction and antioxidative defense system of Swiss mice after chromic acid exposure. Reprod Toxicol 22(1):87–91Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Kumar S, Sathwara NG, Gautam AK, Agarwal K, Shah B, Kulkarni PK, Patel K, Patel A, Dave LM, Parikh DJ, Saiyed HN (2005) Semen quality of industrial workers occupationally exposed to chromium. J Occup Health 47:424–430Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Biswas A, Divya S, Mandal AB, Majumdar S, Singh R (2014) Effects of dietary supplementation of organic chromium (picolinate) on physical and biochemical characteristics of semen and carcass traits of male turkeys. Anim Reprod Sci 151:237–243Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Eibensteiner L, Del Carpio Sanz A, Frumkin H, Gonzales C, Gonzales GF (2005) Lead exposure and semen quality among traffic police in Arequipa, Peru. Int J Occup Environ Health 11:161–166Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Hernandez-Ochoa I, Garcia-Vargas G, Lopez-Carrillo L, Rubio-Andrade M, Moran-Martinez J, Cebrian ME (2005) Low lead environmental exposure alters semen quality and sperm chromatin condensation in northern Mexico. Reprod Toxicol 20:221–228Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Jurasovic J, Cvitkovic P, Pizent A, Colak B, Telisman S (2004) Semen quality and reproductive endocrine function with regard to blood cadmium in Croatian male subjects. Biometals 17:735–743Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Telisman S, Colak B, Piznet A, Jurasović J, Cvitković P (2007) Reproductive toxicity of low-level lead exposure in men. Environ Res 105(2):256–266Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Saarenen M, Suistomaa U, Kantola M, Saarikoski S, Vanha-Perttula T (1987) Lead, magnesium, selenium and zinc in human seminal fluid; comparison with semen parameters and fertility. Hum Reprod 2(6):475–479Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    De Rosa M, Zarrilli S, Paesano L, Carbone U, Boggia B, Petretta M, Maisto A, Cimmino F, Puca G, Colao A, Lombardi G (2003) Traffic pollutants affect fertility in men. Hum Reprod 18(5):1055–1061Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Lerda D (1992) Study of sperm characteristics in persons occupationally exposed to lead. Am J Ind Med 22:567–571Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bonde JP, Joffe M, Apostoli P, Dale A, Kiss P, Spano M, Caruso F, Giwercman A, Bisanti L, Porru S, Vanhoorne M, Comhaire F, Zschiesche W (2002) Sperm count and chromatin structure in men exposed to inorganic lead: lowest adverse effect levels. Occup Environ Med 59:234–242Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Piao F, Cheng F, Chen H, Li G, Sun X, Liu S, Yamauchi T, Yokoyama K (2007) Effects of zinc coadministration on lead toxicities in rats. Ind Health 45:546–551Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Benoff S, Centola GM, Millan C, Napolitano B, Marmar JL, Hurley IR (2003) Increased seminal plasma lead levels adversely affect the fertility potential of sperm in IVF. Hum Reprod 18(2):374–383Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Benoff S, Jacob A, Hurley IR (2000) Male infertility and environmental exposure to lead and cadmium. Hum Reprod Update 6(2):107–121Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Robins JM, Cullen MR, Connors BB, Kayne RD (1983) Depression of thyroid disease associated with occupational exposure to inorganic lead. Arch Intern Med 143:220–224Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kasperczyk A, Kasperczyk S, Horak S, Ostałowska A, Grucka-Mamczar E, Romuk E, Olejek A, Birkner E (2008) Assessment of semen function and lipid peroxidation among lead exposed men. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 228:378–384Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Anderson MB, Pedigo NG, Katz RP, George WJ (1992) Histopathology of testes from mice chronically treated with cobalt. Reprod Toxicol 6(1):41–50Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Pedigo NG, George WJ, Anderson MB (1988) Effects of acute and chronic exposure to cobalt on male reproduction in mice. Reprod Toxicol 2(1):45–53Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Corrier DE, Mollenhauer HH, Clark DE, Hare MF, Elissalde MH (1985) Testicular degeneration and necrosis induced by dietary cobalt. Vet Pathol 22:610–616Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Wdowiak A, Mazurek PA, Wdowiak A, Bojar I (2016b) Effect of electromagnetic waves on human reproduction. Ann Agr Environ Med 1-6.
  37. 37.
    Frączek M, Kurpisz M (2005) System redoks w nasieniu męskim i peroksydacyjne uszkodzenia plemników. Post Hig Med Dośw 59:523–534Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Irvine DS (1996) Glutathione as a treatment for male infertility. Rev Reprod 1:6–12Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Kawakami E, Tekemura A, Sakuma M, Takano M, Hirano T, Hori T, Tsutsui T (2007) Superoxide dismutase and catalase activities in the seminal plasma of normozoospermic and asthenozoospermic beagles. J Vet Med Sci 69(2):133–136Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Alvi-Shoushtari SM, Asri Rezai S, Ansari MHK, Khaki A (2009) Effects of the seminal plasma zinc content and catalase activity on the semen quality of water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) bulls. Pak J Biol Sci 12(2):134–139Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Baumber J, Ball BA, Gravance CG, Medina V, Davies-Morel MCG (2000) The effect of reactive oxygen species on equine sperm motility, viability, acrosomal integrity, mitochondrial membrane potential, and membrane lipid peroxidation. J Androl 21(6):895–902Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Eskiocak S, Gozen AS, Kilic AS, Molla S (2005) Association between mental stress & some antioxidant enzymes of seminal plasma. Indian J Med Res 122(12):491–496Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    WHO (World Health Organization) (1999) WHO laboratory manual for the examination of human semen and sperm-cervical mucus interaction, 4th edn. Cambridge Univ, Press, Cambridge, p 128Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Vayena E, Rowe PJ, Griffin PD (2002) Current practices and controversies in assisted reproduction: report of a WHO meeting. Medical, ethical and social aspects of assisted reproduction 2001. World Health Organization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Marzec-Wróblewska U, Kamiński P, Łakota P, Szymański M, Wasilow K, Ludwikowski G, Kuligowska-Prusińska M, Odrowąż-Sypniewska G, Stuczyński T, Michałkiewicz J (2011) Zinc and iron concentration and SOD activity in human semen and seminal plasma. Biol Trace Element Res 143:167–177.
  46. 46.
    Kumar GP, Laloraya M, Laloraya MM (1990) Powerful anti-sperm motility action of cobaltous ion and its recovery by a sulfhydryl compound. Contraception 41(6):633–639Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Nikolaou VS, Petit A, Zukor DJ, Papanastasiou C, Huk OL, Antoniou J (2013) Presence of cobalt and chromium ions in the seminal fluid of young patients with metal-on-metal total hiparthroplasty. J Arthroplast 28(1):161–167Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Guzikowski W, Szynkowska MI, Motak-Pochrzęst H, Pawlaczyk A, Sypniewski S (2015) Trace elements in seminal plasma of men from infertile couples. Arch. Med Sci 19 11(3):591–598Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Danadevi K, Rozati R, Reddy PP, Grover P (2003) Semen quality of Indian welders occupationally exposed to nickel and chromium. Reprod Toxicol 17(4):451–456Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Li Y, Gao Q, Li M, Li M, Gao X (2014) Cadmium, chromium, and copper concentration plus semen-quality in environmental pollution site. China Iran J Publ Health 43(1):35–41Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Kasperczyk A, Kasperczyk S, Dziwisz M, Birkner E, Walecko C, Winiarska H, Birkner J (2002) Lead and cadmium concentration in human semen. Ginekol Pol 73(5):449–453Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Xu DX, Shen HM, Zhu QX, Chua L, Wang QN, Chia SE, Ong CN (2003) The associations among semen quality, oxidative DNA damage in human spermatozoa and concentrations of cadmium, lead and selenium in seminal plasma. Mutat Res 534(1–2):155–163Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Kasperczyk A, Dobrakowski M, Czuba ZP, Horak S, Kasperczyk S (2015) Environmental exposure to lead induces oxidative stress and modulates the function of the antioxidant defense system and the immune system in the semen of males with normal semen profile. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 284:339–344Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Huang YL, Tseng WC, Lin TH (2001) In vitro effects of metal ions (Fe2+, Mn2+, Pb2+) on sperm motility and lipid peroxidation in human semen. J Toxicol Environ Health, A 62(4):259–267Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Li P, Zhong Y, Jiang X, Wang C, Zuo Z, Sha A (2012) Seminal plasma metals concentration with respect to semen quality. Biol Trace El Res 148(1):1–6Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Wu HM, Lin-Tan DT, Wang ML, Huang HY, Lee CL, Wang HS, Soong YK, Lin JL (2012) Lead level in seminal plasma may affect semen quality for men without occupational exposure to lead. Reprod Biol Endocrinol 10:91Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Xu B, Chia SE, Tsakok M, Ong CN (1993) Trace elements in blood and seminal plasma and their relationship to sperm quality. Reprod Toxicol 7(6):613–618Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Pant N, Upadhyay G, Pandey S, Mathur N, Saxena DK, Srivastava SP (2003) Lead and cadmium concentration in the seminal plasma of men in the general population: correlation with sperm quality. Reprod Toxicol 17(4):447–450Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Slivkova J, Popelkova M, Massanyi P, Toporcerova S, Stwarz R, Formicki G, Lukac N, Putała A, Guzik M (2009) Concentration of trace elements in human semen and relation to spermatozoa quality. J Environ Sci Health A 44(4):370–375Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Ford C, Wells FE, Rogers JN (1995) Assessment of iron status in association with excess alcohol consumption. Ann Clin Biochem 32:527–531Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Rylander R, Megevand Y, Lasserre B, Amstutz W, Granbom S (2001) Moderate alcohol consumption and urinary excretion of magnesium and calcium. Scand J Clin Lab Invest 61(5):401–405Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Zini A, Fischer MA, Mak V, Phang D, Jarvi K (2002) Catalase-like and superoxide dismutase-like activities in human seminal plasma. Urol Res 30:321–323Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Zini A, Garrels K, Phang D (2000) Antioxidant activity in the semen of fertile and infertile men. Urology 55:922–926Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Khosrowbeygi A, Zarghami N (2007) Levels of oxidative stress biomarkers in seminal plasma and their relationship with seminal parameters. BCM Clin Pathol 7:6–12Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Tavilani H, Goodarzi MT, Vaisi-Raygani A, Salimi S, Hassanzadeh T (2008) Activity of antioxidant enzymes in seminal plasma and their relationship with lipid peroxidation of spermatozoa. Int Braz J Urol 34(4):485–491Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Ben Abdallah F, Dammak I, Attia H, Hentati B, Ammar-Keskes L (2009) Lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzyme activities in infertile men: correlation with semen parameter. J Clin Lab Anal 23(2):99–104Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Shiva M, Gautam AK, Verma Y, Shivgotra V, Doshi H, Kumar S (2011) Association between sperm quality, oxidative stress, and seminal antioxidant activity. Clin Biochem 44(4):319–324Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Urszula Marzec-Wróblewska
    • 1
    • 2
  • Piotr Kamiński
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Paweł Łakota
    • 4
  • Marek Szymański
    • 5
    • 6
  • Karolina Wasilow
    • 6
    • 7
  • Grzegorz Ludwikowski
    • 8
  • Leszek Jerzak
    • 9
  • Tomasz Stuczyński
    • 10
  • Alina Woźniak
    • 11
  • Adam Buciński
    • 2
  1. 1.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Medical and Biochemical Biology, Department of Ecology and Environmental ProtectionNicolaus Copernicus University in ToruńBydgoszczPoland
  2. 2.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Faculty of Pharmacy, Chair and Department of BiopharmacyNicolaus Copernicus University in ToruńBydgoszczPoland
  3. 3.Faculty of Biological Sciences, Department of BiotechnologyUniversity of Zielona GóraZielona GóraPoland
  4. 4.Faculty of Animal Biology, Department of Animal BiotechnologyUniversity of Technology and Life SciencesBydgoszczPoland
  5. 5.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital No. 2, Department of Obstetrics, Female Pathology and Oncological GynecologyNicolaus Copernicus University in ToruńBydgoszczPoland
  6. 6.NZOZ Medical Center Co. Prof. dr. hab. med. Wiesław Szymański, Dr. hab. med. Marek SzymańskiBydgoszczPoland
  7. 7.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital No. 2, Family Medicine ClinicNicolaus Copernicus University in ToruńBydgoszczPoland
  8. 8.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Faculty of Medicine, University Hospital No. 2, Department of Clinical AndrologyNicolaus Copernicus University in ToruńBydgoszczPoland
  9. 9.Faculty of Biological Sciences, Department of Nature ProtectionUniversity of Zielona GóraZielona GóraPoland
  10. 10.Faculty of Mathematics Informatics and Landscape ArchitectureThe John Paul II Catholic University of LublinLublinPoland
  11. 11.Collegium Medicum in Bydgoszcz, Department of Medical and Biochemical BiologyNicolaus Copernicus UniversityBydgoszczPoland

Personalised recommendations