Should we consider telomere length and telomerase activity in male factor infertility?

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2018 Jun;30(3):197-202. doi: 10.1097/GCO.0000000000000451.


Purpose of review: The purpose of this review is to analyze what is known to date about the relation between telomeres and male fertility, and if it is possible for telomeres, or elements related to them, to be used as new prognostic biomarkers in fertility treatment.

Recent findings: Cells in germ series, including spermatozoids, have longer telomeres (10-20 kb), and do not seem to undergo the shortening that takes place in somatic cells with age as they present telomerase activity. Longer telomere length found in the sperm of older fathers, influences their offspring possessing cells with longer telomere length. Infertile patients have spermatozoids with shorter telomere length than fertile people, but telomere length does neither correlate with the sperm concentration, mobility or morphology, nor with the DNA fragmentation indices (DFI) of spermatozoids. Embryo quality rate and transplantable embryo rate are related with the telomere length of spermatozoids (STL), but pregnancy rates are not affected.

Summary: Telomere length and telomerase levels can be used as biomarkers of male fertility. Higher STL can have beneficial effects on fertility, thus the use of spermatozoids with longer telomere length in an assisted reproduction technique (ART) could be one way of solving some infertility cases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Spermatozoa / physiology*
  • Telomerase / analysis
  • Telomerase / physiology*
  • Telomere / physiology*


  • Telomerase