Sperm chromatin damage associated with male smoking

Mutat Res. 1999 Jan 25;423(1-2):103-11. doi: 10.1016/s0027-5107(98)00242-5.


Cigarette smoke is a rich source of mutagens and carcinogens; thus, we have investigated the effects of male smoking on the DNA of human sperm. This was performed using the sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA), which measures the sensitivity of sperm DNA to acid induced denaturation, and the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase assay (TdTA), which measures DNA strand breaks by addition of the biotinylated nucleotide dUTP to 3'-OH ends of DNA, sites of DNA breakage, using the enzyme terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase. Sperm from subjects who smoked were significantly more sensitive to acid induced denaturation than non-smokers (P<0.02) and possessed higher levels of DNA strand breaks (P<0.05). We hypothesise that smoking damages the chromatin structure and produces endogenous DNA strand breaks in human sperm. These changes may result in sperm DNA mutations, that predispose offspring to greater risk of malformations, cancer and genetic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase / analysis
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / genetics*
  • Spermatozoa / chemistry
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • Chromatin
  • DNA Nucleotidylexotransferase