Macrophage activity in semen is significantly correlated with sperm quality in infertile men

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50 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of leucocytes within semen has the potential to impair sperm function. Neutrophils and macrophages make up 95% of seminal leucocytes, with both having the ability to damage sperm via the generation of reactive oxygen species, proteases and the induction of apoptosis. Existing cytological techniques for quantifying leucocyte activity within semen (peroxidase, CD45) are less than ideal as they merely count the number of leucocytes, rather than assess their activity. Seminal plasma elastase effectively determines neutrophil activity, yet gives no insight into macrophage activity. Neopterin, a molecule released from activated macrophages, may be a useful marker for macrophage activity in the male reproductive tract. To examine this possibility a total of 63 asymptomatic subjects with male factor infertility and 11 fertile controls provided semen samples for measurement of various inflammatory markers. We were able to confirm for the first time that seminal plasma does indeed contain neopterin and that the levels of this macrophage activity marker are threefold higher in infertile than fertile men. Furthermore, seminal plasma neopterin concentration was significantly correlated with sperm oxidative stress, DNA fragmentation (TUNEL) and apoptosis (Annexin V), making it a useful marker of sperm quality. By contrast, seminal plasma elastase showed no correlation with any marker of sperm quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-831
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA
  • Elastase
  • Leucocyte
  • Macrophage
  • Neopterin
  • Sperm


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