Mitochondrial DNA content of human spermatozoa

Biol Reprod. 2003 Jan;68(1):180-5. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.102.005140.


Sperm mitochondria play an important role in spermatozoa because of the high ATP demand of these cells. Different mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) mutations and haplogroups influence sperm function. The mtDNA dose also contributes to genetic variability and pathology in different tissues and organs, but nothing is known about its relevance in the performance of spermatozoa. We estimated the variability in mtDNA content within a population of men. Different mtDNA:nuclear DNA ratios were characteristic of progressive and nonprogressive spermatozoa, confirming the influence of mtDNA content on sperm functionality. We also estimated that the absolute content of mtDNA was 700 and 1200 mtDNA copies per cell in progressive and nonprogressive human spermatozoa, respectively. These results suggest that a marked increase of mtDNA copy number per cell volume takes place during spermatogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / analysis*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Oligospermia / genetics
  • Oligospermia / metabolism
  • Semen / cytology
  • Spermatogenesis
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial