Extracellular vesicle cargo of the male reproductive tract and the paternal preconception environment

Syst Biol Reprod Med. 2021 Apr;67(2):103-111. doi: 10.1080/19396368.2020.1867665. Epub 2021 Feb 25.


The molecular composition of extracellular vesicles (EVs) is emerging as a novel biomarker in many areas of research including reproductive health. EVs transport biological molecules such as RNA and protein to facilitate cell-to-cell communication among cells of the male reproductive tract. Human and animal studies have shown that EVs present in seminal plasma or in the male reproductive tract contain important cargo that are important for successful reproductive outcomes. Small non-coding RNAs (sncRNA) have been at the forefront of this research, and as such, they have the potential to serve as novel biomarkers of male infertility diagnosis and reproductive success. This review provides an overview of EV biosynthesis and examines the molecular payloads of seminal plasma EVs on male infertility and reproductive success as well as future research that is warranted to examine how these molecular payloads may be modified by environmental factors.

Keywords: Extracellular vesicles; environment; exosomes; male reproductive health; preconception; seminal plasma; small noncoding RNA; sncRNA.