Methylxanthines and Reproduction

  • Alba MinelliEmail author
  • Ilaria Bellezza
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 200)


Reproduction is the process by which organisms create descendants. In human reproduction, two kinds of sex cells, or gametes, are involved. Sperm, the male gamete, and egg , or ovum , the female gamete, must meet in the female reproductive system to create a new individual and both the female and the male reproductive systems are essential to the occurrence of reproduction. Scientific reports dealing with the effects of methylxanthines on reproduction are mostly centred on the use of these compounds as phosphodiesterase inhibitors that, by maintaining high intracellular levels of cyclic AMP (cAMP) , will affect the gametes differently. High cAMP levels will sustain sperm maturation while they hold the oocytes in mitotic arrest. Caffeine , being the methylxanthine most widely consumed by every segment of the population, has been the subject of greatest interest among health professionals and researchers. Conflicting results still seem to characterize the association between male/female caffeine consumption in adult life and semen quality/fertility , although moderate daily caffeine consumption of levels up to 400–450 mg/day (5.7–6.4 mg/kg/day in a 70-kg adult) do not seem to be associated with adverse effects, i.e. general toxicity, effects on bone status and calcium balance, cardiovascular effects, behavioural changes, increased incidence of cancer, or effects on male fertility. A clear stimulation of egg-laying by the coffee leaf pest Leucoptera coffeella was recently reported, providing support for the hypothesis that caffeine, in a dose-dependent way, in insects stimulates egg-laying, thus leading to the death of coffee trees.


Acquisition of sperm fertility Assisted reproductive techniques Oocytes maturation Spermatogenesis 



Adenylyl cyclase


Acrosome reaction


Cyclic AMP


Cyclin-dependant kinase


Dibutyryl cyclic AMP


Follicle-stimulating hormone


Gamete intra-Fallopian transfer




In vitro fertilization


Luteinizing hormone


Luteinizing hormone receptor


Metaphase I


Maturation/meiosis or mitosis promoting factor


No-observed-effect level




Protein kinase A


Protein kinase B


Ubiquitin-proteasome pathway


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Copyright information

© Springer Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Medicina Sperimentale e Scienze BiochimicheUniversità degli Studi di PerugiaPerugiaItaly

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