Mycoplasma genitalium attaches to human spermatozoa

Hum Reprod. 2003 Oct;18(10):2103-9. doi: 10.1093/humrep/deg392.


Background: Mycoplasma genitalium causes urogenital diseases in men and women and is presumed to be sexually transmitted. We wanted to investigate whether spermatozoa could serve as vectors for M.genitalium in order to cause upper genital diseases in women.

Methods: By use of Nomarski light microscopy and transmission X-ray microscopy, the attachment of M.genitalium to spermatozoa was studied. Semen was incubated in vitro with M.genitalium. Purified, motile spermatozoa were examined for attachment of M.genitalium by immunofluorescence microscopy.

Results: Mycoplasma genitalium was shown to adhere to the head, midpiece and tail of the spermatozoa. The spermatozoa became immotile when many M.genitalium were attached. However, the motile spermatozoa were demonstrated to carry M.genitalium and in this case the mycoplasmas were seen to attach mostly to the midpiece or neck region. Occasionally, M.genitalium was seen at the head but not at the tail. By X-ray microscopy, it was possible to observe the diffentiated structure of M.genitalium, and the attachment seemed to be mediated by the tip.

Conclusions: Mycoplasma genitalium can bind to human spermatozoa and thus could be carried by motile sperm. This ability may be important in the process of causing female genital diseases and infertility.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Mycoplasma Infections / physiopathology
  • Mycoplasma Infections / transmission*
  • Mycoplasma genitalium / physiology*
  • Mycoplasma genitalium / ultrastructure
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Bacterial / transmission*
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatozoa* / ultrastructure
  • X-Rays