Role of Selenium and Selenoproteins in Male Reproductive Function: A Review of Past and Present Evidences

Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Aug 2;8(8):268. doi: 10.3390/antiox8080268.


Selenium (Se) is an important trace mineral having many essential roles at the cellular and organismal levels in animal and human health. The biological effects of Se are mainly carried out by selenoproteins (encoded by 25 genes in humans and 24 in mice). As an essential component of selenoproteins, Se performs structural and enzymic roles; in the latter context it is well known for its catalytic and antioxidative functions. Studies involving different animal models have added great value to our understanding regarding the potential implications of Se and selenoproteins in mammalian fertility and reproduction. In this review, we highlight the implications of selenoproteins in male fertility and reproduction followed by the characteristic biological functions of Se and selenoproteins associated with overall male reproductive function. It is evident from observations of past studies (both animal and human) that Se is essentially required for spermatogenesis and male fertility, presumably because of its vital role in modulation of antioxidant defense mechanisms and other essential biological pathways and redox sensitive transcription factors. However, bearing in mind the evidences from mainstream literature, it is also advisable to perform more studies focusing on the elucidation of additional roles played by the peculiar and canonical selenoproteins i.e., glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) and selenoprotein P (SELENOP) in the male reproductive functions. Nevertheless, search for the elucidation of additional putative mechanisms potentially modulated by other biologically relevant selenoproteins should also be included in the scope of future studies. However, as for the implication of Se in fertility and reproduction in men, though a few clinical trials explore the effects of Se supplementation on male fertility, due to inconsistencies in the recruitment of subjects and heterogeneity of designs, the comparison of such studies is still complicated and less clear. Therefore, further research focused on the roles of Se and selenoproteins is awaited for validating the evidences at hand and outlining any therapeutic schemes intended for improving male fertility. As such, new dimensions could be added to the subject of male fertility and Se supplementation.

Keywords: male fertility; mammalian reproduction; selenium; selenoproteins; spermatogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review