Molecular Mechanisms of Antioxidants in Male Infertility

  • Kathleen HwangEmail author
  • Dolores J. Lamb


The failure to conceive within 1 year occurs in approximately 15% of couples, and approximately 50% of problems related to conception is either caused entirely by the male or is a combined problem with the male and his partner. Male infertility continues to be a clinical challenge of increasing significance. While the etiology of suboptimal semen quality is currently not completely understood, oxidative stress has demonstrated ability to affect fertility. Oxidative stress is induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS in the form of superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radical are formed as a by-product of oxygen metabolism. The presence of excess ROS can cause oxidative damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA. Spermatozoa, like any other aerobic cell, are constantly trying to maintain that fine balance. Abnormal ROS formation is found in up to 40% of infertile patients, with some reports suggesting an inverse relationship between seminal ROS levels and spontaneous pregnancy outcomes of infertile couples. Many studies have attempted to define the relationship between seminal ROS and IVF but have met with conflicting results. Nevertheless, a growing body of knowledge on ROS and fertility makes testing for oxidants in the semen an important part of the infertile male evaluation.


Male infertility Reactive oxygen species Oxidative stress Oxidative metabolism Varicocele Antioxidant supplementation Molecular defects Chemiluminescence assay Leukocytospermia 



This study was supported in part by the 1K12DK083014 Multidisciplinary K12 Urology Research Career Development Program at Baylor to D.J.L. and K.H. from the National Institute of Kidney and Digestive Diseases.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgery (Urology)Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Scott Department of UrologyBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA

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