Effect of oxidative stress on male reproduction

World J Mens Health. 2014 Apr;32(1):1-17. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.2014.32.1.1. Epub 2014 Apr 25.


Infertility affects approximately 15% of couples trying to conceive, and a male factor contributes to roughly half of these cases. Oxidative stress (OS) has been identified as one of the many mediators of male infertility by causing sperm dysfunction. OS is a state related to increased cellular damage triggered by oxygen and oxygen-derived free radicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS). During this process, augmented production of ROS overwhelms the body's antioxidant defenses. While small amounts of ROS are required for normal sperm functioning, disproportionate levels can negatively impact the quality of spermatozoa and impair their overall fertilizing capacity. OS has been identified as an area of great attention because ROS and their metabolites can attack DNA, lipids, and proteins; alter enzymatic systems; produce irreparable alterations; cause cell death; and ultimately, lead to a decline in the semen parameters associated with male infertility. This review highlights the mechanisms of ROS production, the physiological and pathophysiological roles of ROS in relation to the male reproductive system, and recent advances in diagnostic methods; it also explores the benefits of using antioxidants in a clinical setting.

Keywords: Antioxidants; Infertility, male; Oxidative stress; Reactive oxygen species; Spermatozoa.

Publication types

  • Review