Human ejaculated spermatozoa contain active P450 aromatase

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Jul;87(7):3385-90. doi: 10.1210/jcem.87.7.8633.


The generation of cytochrome P450 aromatase (P450arom) and estrogen receptor (ER) knockout mice has raised new interest in the physiological role of estrogens in male reproduction. Testicular expression of P450arom, the enzyme that converts androgens into estrogens, has been shown in both somatic and germ cell types in several species, whereas in humans, testicular expression is confined to the somatic cells. The aim of this study was to determine whether P450arom is present in human ejaculated spermatozoa. Using RT-PCR and specific primers, we amplified the highly conserved helical, aromatic, and heme-binding sequences of the conventional human P450arom from RNA isolated from human spermatozoa. Employing a rabbit polyclonal antiserum directed against human placental P450arom, immunoblotting analysis demonstrated aromatase protein expression, which was localized primarily to the tail and midpiece of spermatozoa. Measurement of enzymatic activity using a sensitive (3)H(2)O aromatase assay revealed that activity was enhanced by the 2'-O-dibutyryl cAMP and completely inhibited in the presence of the specific aromatase inhibitor, letrozole. These results represent the first demonstration that human spermatozoa are a potential site of estrogen biosynthesis. The physiological relevance of estrogen synthesis in spermatozoa remains to be elucidated and opens a new area of investigation in male fertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aromatase / genetics
  • Aromatase / metabolism*
  • Ejaculation*
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Spermatozoa / enzymology*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Aromatase