One of the major causes of defective sperm function is oxidative stress, which not only disrupts the integrity of sperm DNA but also limits the fertilizing potential of these cells as a result of collateral damage to proteins and lipids in the sperm plasma membrane. The origins of such oxidative stress appear to involve the sperm mitochondria, which have a tendency to generate high levels of superoxide anion as a prelude to entering the intrinsic apoptotic cascade. Unfortunately, these cells have very little capacity to respond to such an attack because they only possess the first enzyme in the base excision repair (BER) pathway, 8-oxoguanine glycosylase 1 (OGG1). The latter successfully creates an abasic site, but the spermatozoa cannot process the oxidative lesion further because they lack the downstream proteins (APE1, XRCC1) needed to complete the repair process. It is the responsibility of the oocyte to continue the BER pathway prior to initiation of S-phase of the first mitotic division. If a mistake is made by the oocyte at this stage of development, a mutation will be created that will be represented in every cell in the body. Such mechanisms may explain the increase in childhood cancers and other diseases observed in the offspring of males who have suffered oxidative stress in their germ line as a consequence of age, environmental or lifestyle factors. The high prevalence of oxidative DNA damage in the spermatozoa of male infertility patients may have implications for the health of children conceived in vitro and serves as a driver for current research into the origins of free radical generation in the germ line.
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Aitken RJ, Smith TB, Jobling MS, Baker MA, De Iuliis GN Are you the author?
Priority Research Centre in Reproductive Science, Discipline of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and IT, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia
Reference: Asian J Androl. 2014 Jan-Feb;16(1):31-8.