Background and aim: Mammalian spermatozoa are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and are very susceptible to attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and membrane lipid peroxide ion. Normally a balance is maintained between the amount of ROS produced and that scavenged. Cellular damage arises when this equilibrium is disturbed. A shift in the levels of ROS towards pro-oxidants in semen and vaginal secretions can induce an oxidative stress on spermatozoa. The aim was to study lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzymes such as catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) and to correlate the same, with the 'water test', in male infertility.
Settings: Experimental study.
Subjects and methods: Ejaculates from a total of 83 infertile and fertile healthy individuals were obtained. Lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzyme levels were studied and correlated with water test.
Results: The results indicate that (i) the antioxidant enzyme catalase showed no significant changes in the various pathological samples, (ii) antioxidant enzymes SOD and glutathione peroxidase correlate positively with asthenozoospermic samples and (iii) the degree of lipid peroxidation also correlates positively with the poorly swollen sperm tails. The increase in SOD and glutathione peroxidase values, in the pathological cases represents an attempt made to overcome the reactive oxygen species.
Conclusion: Water test could be used as a preliminary marker test for sperm tail damage by reactive oxygen species, since it correlates very well with lipid peroxidation and antioxidant enzymes.