Sperm DNA damage: correlation to severity of semen abnormalities

Urology. 2009 Oct;74(4):789-93. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2009.05.043. Epub 2009 Jul 30.


Objectives: To analyze the relationship between DNA damage and standard semen parameters (SSP) in patients who present for fertility evaluation. Evaluation of male fertility includes assessment of the SSP and increasingly sperm DNA damage. However, the relationship between DNA damage and SSP remains controversial.

Methods: Following Institutional Research Ethics Board approval, semen samples from 2586 unselected nonazoospermic patients were subjected to computer-assisted semen analysis and flow cytometry-based sperm DNA damage assessment expressed as the DNA fragmentation index.

Results: Sperm DNA damage was significantly negatively correlated to sperm SSP (concentration, motility, and normal morphology) and positively correlated to patient's age. DNA damage increased in association with the number of abnormalities in SSP. Patients with oligoasthenoteratozoospermia had significantly higher DNA damage and more frequent DNA damage over 30% compared with normozoospermic patients and patients with abnormalities in 1 or 2 SSP.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that DNA damage is significantly correlated to SSP as well as age. In addition, the degree of DNA damage increases with the number of abnormal parameters in a sample and is most severe in patients with oligoasthenoteratozoospermia. Complex and possibly age-related mechanisms of DNA damage in human spermatozoa may be responsible for the strong relationship between SSP and DNA fragmentation index.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • DNA Damage*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spermatozoa*