Progress in Research on Sperm DNA Fragmentation

Med Sci Monit. 2020 Apr 22:26:e918746. doi: 10.12659/MSM.918746.


With the increasing incidence of male infertility, routine detection of semen is insufficient to accurately assess male fertility. Infertile men, who have lower odds of conceiving naturally, exhibit high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation (SDF). The mechanisms driving SDF include abnormal spermatogenesis, oxidative stress damage, and abnormal sperm apoptosis. As these factors can induce SDF and subsequent radical changes leading to male infertility, detection of the extent of SDF has become an efficient routine method for semen analysis. Although it is still debated, SDF detection has become a research hotspot in the field of reproductive medicine as a more accurate indicator for assessing sperm quality and male fertility. SDF may be involved in male infertility, reproductive assisted outcomes, and growth and development of offspring. The effective detection methods of SDF are sperm chromatin structure analysis (SCSA), terminal transferase-mediated dUTP end labeling (TUNEL) assay, single-cell gel electrophoresis (SCGE) assay, and sperm chromatin dispersion (SCD) test, and all of these methods are valuable for assisted reproductive techniques. Currently, the preferred method for detecting sperm DNA integrity is SCSA. However, the regulation network of SDF is very complex because the sperm DNA differs from the somatic cell DNA with its unique structure. A multitude of molecular factors, including coding genes, non-coding genes, or methylated DNA, participate in the complex physiological regulation activities associated with SDF. Studying SDF occurrence and the underlying mechanisms may effectively improve its clinical treatments. This review aimed to outline the research status of SDF mechanism and detection technology-related issues, as well as the effect of increased SDF rate, aiming to provide a basis for clinical male infertility diagnosis and treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / genetics*
  • Infertility, Male / metabolism
  • Male
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted
  • Semen / cytology
  • Semen / metabolism
  • Semen Analysis / methods*
  • Spermatozoa / cytology*


  • DNA