Lipids of the sperm plasma membrane: From polyunsaturated fatty acids considered as markers of sperm function to possible scavenger therapy

A. Lenzi, M. Picardo, L. Gandini, F. Dondero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article is, in part, a review of present knowledge regarding the lipid metabolism of the sperm cell and the lipid composition of the sperm plasma membrane. It is also a summary of our research on this topic, reporting published and unpublished data. The article tries to cover both basic and clinical research. Sperm cells use lipid metabolic pathways for the production of part of their energy. The double leaflets of the membrane are not simply a passive, bilayer, lipidic film in which the receptors receive their molecular specific signals, but are a very specialized structure. Complete maturation of the lipids of the sperm cell membrane is reached after passage of the spermatozoon through the epididymis. A specific composition of phospholipids and a significant concentration of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) have been shown to be present in sperm membranes. Plasmalogen is a special kind of phospholipid found exclusively in spermatozoa and other cells with the capacity to react promptly to stimuli. In addition, we have found a high concentration of the n-3 PUFA family in the sperm membrane. Seminal plasma has a highly specialized scavenger system that defends the sperm membrane against lipoperoxidation. Various pathologies and systemic predisposition can lead to an antioxidant/pro-oxidant disequilibrium. Clinical trials with natural scavengers could be a useful research area in which to seek a treatment for these pathologies. Of the natural scavengers, glutathione has been shown to restore the physiological constitution of PUFA in the cell membrane under certain conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-256
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction Update
Volume2
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 1996

Keywords

  • Glutathione
  • Lipoperoxidation
  • PUFA
  • ROS
  • Sperm membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine

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