Effect of reactive oxygen species produced by spermatozoa and leukocytes on sperm functions in non-leukocytospermic patients
Objective: To investigate whether there is an impact of different sources of reactive oxygen species (ROS) on sperm functions. Design: Prospective study. Setting: Patients at the Center for Dermatology and Andrology, Giessen, Germany. Patient(s): Semen collected from 63 randomly collected patients attending the IVF unit of the University of Giessen, Germany. Intervention(s): Only patients with nonleukocytospermia were included in this study. Main Outcome Measure(s): Sperm count and motility before and after sperm separation by swim-up, morphology, DNA fragmentation, and extrinsic (by leukocytes) and intrinsic ROS production (by spermatozoa) were evaluated. Result(s): Leukocytes correlated significantly with extrinsic ROS production (r = 0.576), but markedly less with intrinsic ROS production (r = 0.296). Sperm count, morphology, and motility in the ejaculate were markedly more affected by extrinsic than by intrinsic ROS. The DNA fragmentation was strongly positively correlated with intrinsic ROS production, whereas this correlation was weaker for extrinsic ROS production. No correlation was found between DNA fragmentation and the number of leukocytes, whereas the correlations with motility in the ejaculate and the motile sperm count after swim-up were highly significant. Moreover, significant differences were observed for extrinsic and intrinsic ROS production between groups of patients having a high (<1 × 106/mL) and a low number (<1 × 106/mL) of leukocytes in the ejaculate. Conclusion(s): The origin of ROS seems to have an influence on the site of the damage. Because leukocyte counts <1 × 106/mL caused a significant decrease of motility and DNA integrity, the threshold given by the World Health Organization (WHO) should be re-evaluated. © 2005 by American Society for Reproductive Medicine.