Sperm Antigens Related to Infertility

  • Nancy J. Alexander
  • Mohamed Isahakia
Part of the Reproductive Biology book series (RBIO)


How antibodies to sperm interfere with fertility has been argued at many scientific meetings. No clear-cut answer is available from either epidemiological or experimental studies. We know that animals immunized with whole sperm or sperm extracts have high antibody levels and become infertile. When the antibody titers fall, fertility returns. Men and women with antisperm antibodies are less likely to be fertile than those lacking such antibodies. Further evidence comes from the finding that the levels of antibodies that develop in men after vasectomy can be used to predict fertility after vasovasostomy. When we measured sperm-agglutinating and sperm-immobilizing antibodies in a prospective study of 160 men, we found agglutinating antibodies in 63%, immobilizing antibodies in 37%, and antibodies in the seminal plasma in 3% (Fuchs and Alexander, 1983). In a postoperative evaluation most men had no significant change in agglutinating or immobilizing antibody levels. The incidence of men with antibodies in their seminal plasma rose after vasovasostomy to 16%. This rise most likely occurred because of the contribution of the epididymal segment to the seminal plasma. Pregnancy rates were inversely correlated with antibody levels. No man in our study caused a pregnancy if he had a titer of greater than 1:160. Sutherland and associates (1984) observed similar findings in men who underwent a vasectomy reversal and Rümke (1959) obtained similar results from men who were infertile and had antibodies but had not had a vasectomy.


Seminal Plasma Acrosome Reaction Sperm Capacitation Mammalian Sperm Sperm Surface 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander, N.J. (1984) Antibodies to human spermatozoa impede sperm penetration of cervical mucus or hamster eggs. Fertil. Steril. 41: 433–439.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, N.J., Sampson, J.H., and Fulgham, D.L. (1983) Pregnancy rates in patients treated for antisperm antibodies with prednisone. Int. J. Fertil. 28: 63–67.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bedford, J.M. (1975) Maturation, transport and fate of spermatozoa on the epididymis. In: Hamilton, Greene. Handbook of Physiology, Section 7: Endocrinlogy, Vol. V: Male Reproductive System, p. 303 (American Physiological Society, Washington).Google Scholar
  4. Elias, P.M., Friend, D.S., and Goerke, J. (1979) Membrane sterol heterogenity: freeze fracture detection with saponins and filipin. J. Histochem. Cytochem. 27: 1247–1249.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Feuchter, F.A., Vernon, R.B. and Eddy, E.M. (1981) Analysis of the sperm surface with monoclonal antibodies. Topographically restricted antigens appearing in the epididymis. Biol. Reprod. 24: 1099–1110.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Friend, D.S., and Fawcett, D.W. (1974) Membrane differentiation in freeze-fractured mammalian sperm. J. Cell Biol. 63: 641–645.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Fuchs, E.F., and Alexander, N.J. (1983) Immunological considerations before and after vasovasostomy. Fertil. Steril. 40: 497–499.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Hendry, W.F., Treehuka, K., Hughes, L., Stedronska, J., Parslow, J.H., Wass, J.A.H., and Besser, G.M. (In press). Cyclical prednisolone therapy for male infertility associated with autoantibodies to spermatozoa. Fertil. Steril.Google Scholar
  9. Isahakia, M., and Alexander, N.J. (1984) Interspecies cross-reactivity of monoclonal antibodies directed against human sperm antigens. Biol. Reprod. 30: 1015–1026.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kohler, J.K. (1978) The mammalian sperm surface: Studies with specific labeling techniques. Int. J. Devel. Cytol. 54: 73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Lakoski, K.A., and Saling, P.M. (1984) Development of the acrosome: Sperm antigens involved in fertilization probed with monoclonal antibodies. (Abstract) Biol. Reprod. (Suppl.) 30: 134.Google Scholar
  12. Lillie, F.R. (1919) Problems of Fertilization. Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, Il.Google Scholar
  13. Moore, H.D.M. (1980) Localisation of specific glycoproteins secreted by the rabbit and hamster epididymis. Biol. Reprod. 22: 705–718.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Moore, H.D.M. (1981) Glycoprotein secretion of the epididymis in the rabbit and hamster: localisation on epididymal spermatozoa and the effect of specific antibodies on fertilization in vivo. J. Exp. Zool. 215: 77–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Moore, H.D.M., and Hartman, T.D. (1984) Localisation by monoclonal antibodies of various surface antigens of hamster spermatozoa and the effect of antibody on fertilization in vitro. J. Reprod. Fertil. 70: 175–183.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Naz, R.K., Saxe, J.M., and Menge, A.C. (1983) Inhibition of fertility in rabbits by monoclonal antibodies against sperm. Biol. Reprod. 28: 249–254.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Naz, R.K., Alexander, M.J., Isahakia, M., and Hamilton, M.S. (1984) Monoclonal antibody to a human germ cell membrane glycoprotein that inhibits fertilization. Science 225: 342–344.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ohno, S. (1970) Evolution by Gene Duplication. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York.Google Scholar
  19. Primakoff, P., and Myles, D.G. (1983) A map of the guinea-pig sperm surface constructed with monoclonal antibodies. Dev. Biol. 98: 417–428.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rümke, P., and Hellinga, G. (1959) Autoantibodies against spermatozoa in sterile men. Am. J. Clin. Pathol. 32: 357–363.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Tung, K.S.K., and Goldberg, F.H. (1979) Immunobiological consequence of immunization of female mice with homologous spermatozoa: Induction of fertility. J. Reprod. Immunol. 1: 145–151.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy J. Alexander
    • 1
    • 2
  • Mohamed Isahakia
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Reproductive Biology and BehaviorOregon Regional Primate Research CenterBeavertonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Primate ResearchNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations