Oxidative stress and male infertility

Nat Rev Urol. 2017 Aug;14(8):470-485. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2017.69. Epub 2017 May 16.


DNA damage, largely owing to oxidative stress, is a leading cause of defective sperm function. High levels of oxidative stress result in damage to sperm DNA, RNA transcripts, and telomeres and, therefore might provide a common underlying aetiology of male infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, in addition to congenital malformations, complex neuropsychiatric disorders, and childhood cancers in children fathered by men with defective sperm cells. Spermatozoa are highly vulnerable to oxidative stress owing to limited levels of antioxidant defence and a single, limited DNA-damage detection and repair mechanism. Oxidative stress is predominantly caused by a host of lifestyle-related factors, the majority of which are modifiable. Antioxidant regimens and lifestyle modifications could both be plausible therapeutic approaches that enable the burden of oxidative-stress-induced male factor infertility to be overcome. Lifestyle interventions including yoga and meditation can substantially improve the integrity of sperm DNA by reducing levels of oxidative DNA damage, regulating oxidative stress and by increasing the expression of genes responsible for DNA repair, cell-cycle control and anti-inflammatory effects. Oxidative stress is caused by various modifiable factors, and the use of simple interventions can decrease levels of oxidative stress, and therefore reduce the incidence of both infertility and complex diseases in the resultant offspring.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • DNA Damage / physiology
  • DNA Repair / drug effects
  • DNA Repair / physiology
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / diagnosis
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism*
  • Infertility, Male / therapy*
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants