The Role of Sperm Centrioles in Human Reproduction - The Known and the Unknown

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2019 Oct 1;7:188. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2019.00188. eCollection 2019.


Each human spermatozoon contains two remodeled centrioles that it contributes to the zygote. There, the centrioles reconstitute a centrosome that assembles the sperm aster and participate in pronuclei migration and cleavage. Thus, centriole abnormalities may be a cause of male factor infertility and failure to carry pregnancy to term. However, the precise mechanisms by which sperm centrioles contribute to embryonic development in humans are still unclear, making the search for a link between centriole abnormalities and impaired male fecundity particularly difficult. Most previous investigations into the role of mammalian centrioles during fertilization have been completed in murine models; however, because mouse sperm and zygotes appear to lack centrioles, these studies provide information that is limited in its applicability to humans. Here, we review studies that examine the role of the sperm centrioles in the early embryo, with particular emphasis on humans. Available literature includes case studies and case-control studies, with a few retrospective studies and no prospective studies reported. This literature has provided some insight into the morphological characteristics of sperm centrioles in the zygote and has allowed identification of some centriole abnormalities in rare cases. Many of these studies suggest centriole involvement in early embryogenesis based on phenotypes of the embryo with only indirect evidence for centriole abnormality. Overall, these studies suggest that centriole abnormalities are present in some cases of sperm with asthenoteratozoospermia and unexplained infertility. Yet, most previously published studies have been restricted by the laborious techniques (like electron microscopy) and the limited availability of centriolar markers, resulting in small-scale studies and the lack of solid causational evidence. With recent progress in sperm centriole biology, such as the identification of the unique composition of sperm centrioles and the discovery of the atypical centriole, it is now possible to begin to fill the gaps in sperm centriole epidemiology and to identify the etiology of sperm centriole dysfunction in humans.

Keywords: centriole; centrosome; cilium; embrio; infertility; male factor; reproduction; sperm.

Publication types

  • Review