Role of copper in the process of spermatogenesis

Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2017 Aug 9;71(0):663-683. doi: 10.5604/01.3001.0010.3846.


Copper (Cu) is an essential trace element required for the normal development of living organisms. Due to its redox potential, copper is a cofactor in many enzymes responsible for important processes in cells. Copper deficiency has a significant influence on the reduction or the total eradication of copper-dependent enzymes in the body, thereby inhibiting cell life processes. On the other hand, copper is a very reactive element and in its free state, it can trigger the production of large amounts of free radicals, which will consequently lead to the damage of proteins and DNA. Because of those reasons, living organisms have developed precise mechanisms regulating the concentration of copper in cells. Copper also plays a very important role in male fertility. It is an essential element for the production of male gametes. The significant role of copper is also described in the processes of cell division - mitotic and meiotic. Copper-dependent enzymes such as ceruloplasmin, superoxide dismutase SOD1 and SOD3, group of metallothionein and cytochrome c oxidase are present at all stages of gametogenesis as well as in the somatic cells of the testis and in the somatic cells of epididymis. Substantial amounts of copper can also be found in liquids associated with sperm in the epididymis and prostate. Copper also affects the integral androgen distribution in terms of fertility on the line hypothalamic-pituitary-testis. Both copper increase and deficiency leads to a significant reduction in male fertility, which spans the entire spectrum of abnormalities at the sperm level, male gonad, production of hormones and distribution of micronutrients such as zinc and iron. Nowadays, the effects of copper on gametes production have become more important and are connected with the increasing levels of pollution with heavy metals in environment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Copper / metabolism*
  • Copper / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Spermatogenesis*
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Trace Elements / metabolism


  • Trace Elements
  • Copper
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Ceruloplasmin