Steroid receptors and their ligands: effects on male gamete functions

Exp Cell Res. 2014 Nov 1;328(2):303-13. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2014.07.015. Epub 2014 Jul 22.


In recent years a new picture of human sperm biology is emerging. It is now widely recognized that sperm contain nuclear encoded mRNA, mitochondrial encoded RNA and different transcription factors including steroid receptors, while in the past sperm were considered incapable of transcription and translation. One of the main targets of steroid hormones and their receptors is reproductive function. Expression studies on Progesterone Receptor, estrogen receptor, androgen receptor and their specific ligands, demonstrate the presence of these systems in mature spermatozoa as surface but also as nuclear conventional receptors, suggesting that both systemic and local steroid hormones, through sperm receptors, may influence male reproduction. However, the relationship between the signaling events modulated by steroid hormones and sperm fertilization potential as well as the possible involvement of the specific receptors are still controversial issues. The main line of this review highlights the current research in human sperm biology examining new molecular systems of response to the hormones as well as specific regulatory pathways controlling sperm cell fate and biological functions. Most significant studies regarding the identification of steroid receptors are reported and the mechanistic insights relative to signaling pathways, together with the change in sperm metabolism energy influenced by steroid hormones are discussed.The reviewed evidences suggest important effects of Progesterone, Estrogen and Testosterone and their receptors on spermatozoa and implicate the involvement of both systemic and local steroid action in the regulation of male fertility potential.

Keywords: Androgen receptor; Capacitation; Estrogen receptor; Fertility; Progesterone Receptor; Sperm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Male
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Steroid