Aquaporin-mediated water and hydrogen peroxide transport is involved in normal human spermatozoa functioning

Umberto Laforenza, Giorgia Pellavio, Anna Lisa Marchetti, Claudia Omes, Federica Todaro, Giulia Gastaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Different aquaporins (AQPs) are expressed in human sperm cells and with a different localization. Their function has been related to cell volume control in response to the osmotic changes encountered passing from the epididymal fluid to the cervical mucus or involved in the end stage of cytoplasm removal during sperm maturation. Recently, AQPs have also shown hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) permeability properties. Here, we investigate the expression, localization and functioning of AQPs in human sperm cells with particular attention to their role as peroxiporins in reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenging in both normospermic and sub-fertile human subjects. Western blotting and immunocytochemistry were used to confirm and clarify the AQPs expression and localization. Water and H2O2 permeability was tested by stopped flow light scattering method and by the CM-H2DCFDA (5-(and-6)-chloromethyl-2’,7’-dichlorodihydro-fluorescein diacetate, acetyl ester) H2O2 fluorescence probe, respectively. AQP3, -7, -8, and -11 proteins were found in human sperm cells and localized in the head (AQP7), in the middle piece (AQP8) and in the tail (AQP3 and -11) in both the plasma membrane and in intracellular structures. Sperm cells showed water and H2O2 permeability which was reversibly inhibited by H2O2, heat stress and the AQP inhibitor HgCl2. Reduced functionality was observed in patients with compromised basal semen parameters. Present findings suggest that AQPs are involved in both volume regulation and ROS elimination. The relationship between sperm number and motility and AQP functioning was also demonstrated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number66
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Aquaporins-7
  • Aquaporins-8
  • Oxidative stress
  • Sperm motility
  • Sterility
  • Water channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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