Mitochondrial biomarkers reflect semen quality: Results from the MARCHS study in chongqing, China

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Unexplained infertility requires that more sensitive and mechanism-based biomarkers should be developed and used independently of or in addition to conventional semen parameters for an infertility diagnosis. In the present study, semen samples were collected from young men participating in the Male Reproductive Health in Chongqing College students (MARCHS) cohort study in the follow-up stage in 2014. Conventional semen parameters were measured in all 656 participants, whereas sperm mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn), mtDNA integrity and apoptotic parameters were measured among 627, 386, 362, and 628 participants, respectively. We found that sperm MMP was significantly positively correlated with all of conventional semen parameters including semen volume (r = 0.090, p = 0.025), sperm concentration (r = 0.301, p<0.01), total sperm count (r = 0.324, p<0.01), and progressive motility (r = 0.399, p<0.01); sperm MMP was also negatively correlated with Annexin V+ sperm (r = -0.553, p<0.01); mtDNAcn was significantly negatively correlated with sperm concentration (r = -0.214, p<0.01), total sperm count (r = -0.232, p<0.01), and progressive motility (r = -0.164, p = 0.01); mtDNA integrity was also significantly positively correlated with sperm concentration (r = 0.195, p<0.01), total sperm count (r = 0.185, p<0.01), and progressive motility (r = 0.106, p = 0.043). After adjusting for potential confounders, these relationships remained significant. Furthermore, we explored the potential effects of lifestyles on such mitochondrial biomarkers and found that the current drinkers displayed a higher level of sperm MMP; additionally, mt DNAcn was increased with age. The results indicated that certain mitochondrial biomarkers could serve as predictors of semen quality in a general population, and the study provides a baseline for the effects of population characteristics and lifestyles on such mitochondrial markers.




Zhang, G., Wang, Z., Ling, X., Zou, P., Yang, H., Chen, Q., … Ao, L. (2016). Mitochondrial biomarkers reflect semen quality: Results from the MARCHS study in chongqing, China. PLoS ONE, 11(12).

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