Powerful proteins for male fertility

Daddy with baby

Two groups of researchers have separately identified two prominent proteins necessary for high functioning sperm. The two proteins come from a family of proteins named PLA2s and in experiments with mice proved vital for sperm function and fertility. These proteins could underlie causes of infertility and be pivotal for the formation of new treatments, both for male infertility and for male contraception. Perhaps most importantly, these proteins are closely related to a group of proteins associated with atherosclerosis. Drugs created to treat hardening of the arteries and cardiac inflammation need to address and compensate for the effect their active ingredients may have on men looking to start families.

One team of researchers, led by Makoto Murakami at The Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Medical Science in Japan, found that sPLA2-III was expressed in the proximal epididymal epithelium in the testis. Mice lacking this protein had substantially compromised fertility because their sperm never developed properly. Specifically, the sperm had decreased motility and decreased ability to penetrate and fertilize the egg in vitro.

The second group, led by Christophe Arnoult and his colleagues at the Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience in France, found in mice that secreted PLA2 was a predominant constituent of a compartment in sperm known as the acrosome. This compartment has a key role in breaking through the egg’s wall in order to cause fertilization. Consistent with this, male mice lacking PLA2 produced smaller litters than did normal male mice and sperm from the PLA2-deficient mice were not efficient at fertilizing eggs in vitro. The molecules used to inhibit PLA2s in experiments reduced the efficiency of in vitro fertilization. By contrast the presence of additional PLA2 improved IVF results.

It will be interesting to see what these discoveries lead to in the development of fertility drugs, contraception or even heart medications. Further research will lead to new and better treatments for men.

Source: Journal of Clinical Investigation, Medical News Today


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