Analysis of seminal plasma from patients with non-obstructive azoospermia and identification of candidate biomarkers of male infertility

J Proteome Res. 2012 Mar 2;11(3):1503-11. doi: 10.1021/pr200812p. Epub 2012 Feb 2.


Infertility affects approximately 15% of couples with equivalent male and female contribution. Absence of sperm in semen, referred to as azoospermia, accounts for 5-20% of male infertility cases and can result from pretesticular azoospermia, non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA), and obstructive azoospermia (OA). The current clinical methods of differentiating NOA cases from OA ones are indeterminate and often require surgical intervention for a conclusive diagnosis. We catalogued 2048 proteins in seminal plasma from men presented with NOA. Using spectral-counting, we compared the NOA proteome to our previously published proteomes of fertile control men and postvasectomy (PV) men and identified proteins at differential abundance levels among these clinical groups. To verify spectral counting ratios for candidate proteins, extracted ion current (XIC) intensities were also used to calculate abundance ratios. The Pearson correlation coefficient between spectral counting and XIC ratios for the Control-NOA and NOA-PV data sets is 0.83 and 0.80, respectively. Proteins that showed inconsistent spectral counting and XIC ratios were removed from analysis. There are 34 proteins elevated in Control relative to NOA, 18 decreased in Control relative to NOA, 59 elevated in NOA relative to PV, and 16 decreased in NOA relative to PV. Many of these proteins have expression in the testis and the epididymis and are linked to fertility. Some of these proteins may be useful as noninvasive biomarkers in discriminating NOA cases from OA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Azoospermia / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Semen / metabolism*
  • Seminal Plasma Proteins / metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Vasectomy


  • Biomarkers
  • Seminal Plasma Proteins