Human β-defensin 1 in follicular fluid and semen: impact on fertility

Luisa Zupin, Vania Polesello, Monica Martinelli, Stefania Luppi, Elena Giolo, Gabriella Zito, Federico Romano, Ludovica Segat, Sergio Crovella, Giuseppe Ricci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: β-defensins are antimicrobial peptides expressed at mucosal level of male and female genito-urinary tract, where they exert protective functions against infections, possibly preserving human health and fertility. In our study, we investigated the possible involvement of β-defensins in female and male infertility in Italian infertile couples (i) evaluating the presence of human β-defensin 1 (hBD-1) in follicular fluid (FF) and its correlation with in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes; (ii) investigating the relationship between hBD-1 levels in semen and IVF outcomes (comprising correlation with sperm parameters); and (iii) exploring the effect of hBD-1 peptide on spermatozoa motility in vitro. Methods: A perspective observational analytic pilot study was conducted. hBD-1 concentration was measured with ELISA assay in FF and semen from 50 couples that underwent assisted procreation technique procedures due to infertility status. Moreover, hBD-1 exogenous peptide was administered to 29 normozoospermic semen and their motility was recorded. Results: hBD-1 was detected in FF and its levels were significantly higher in women with good fertilization rate (≥ 75%), respect to those with a poor fertilization rate (< 75%). The hBD-1 semen concentrations in oligo-asthenozoospermic subjects were significantly lower than that in normozoospermic men. Instead, hBD-1 level in sperm and FF not correlated with pregnancy rate. Finally, incubation of sperm with exogenous hBD-1 significantly increased progressive motility after 1 h and 24 h. Conclusions: Being aware of the relatively small sample size and medium power, our results possibly suggest that hBD-1 could influence oocyte and sperm quality, and could improve, when exogenously added, sperm motility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)787-797
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2019


  • Antimicrobial peptides
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Infertility
  • Innate immunity
  • Sperm motility
  • β-defensin 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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