Flow cytometric analyses of sperm functions and genetic integrity

Helena Oliveira, Marcello Spanò, Conceição Santos, Maria de Lourdes Pereira

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


Infertility is a nowadays major increasing concern. As the male factor contributes toéabout half of the infertility cases, sperm analysis is extremely important for diagnosis andéinvestigation of infertility. Assessment of male infertility is currently based on a varietyéof semen analysis described by the World Health Organization guidelines, essentiallyébased on sperm number, morphology and motility by light microscopy. However, it iséwidely recognized that these techniques are not sufficient to fully describe the whole ofésperm biological properties needed to achieve fertilization. In addition, the results oféconventional analyses may be very subjective and prone to intra- and inter-observerévariability, and they do not address the integrity of the male genome within the sperméhead. Good-quality sperm DNA is essential for the accurate transmission of the paternalégenetic information and the consequent maintenance of healthy future generations.éAbnormalities in male genome characterized by damage of sperm DNA may beéindicative of male subfertility, regardless of routine sperm parameters. Even though theéetiology of suboptimal semen quality is poorly understood, dyspermic patients are oftenécharacterized by an increased frequency of defective sperm at the chromatin,échromosome and DNA level, and strong associations between the presence of geneticallyéabnormal sperm and impaired human reproductive capability have been reported. Theétechniques to analyse sperm DNA damage, essentially built upon a cytometricétechnology, have been improved and, in some cases, thresholds for pregnancy outcomeéhave also been established. Current assays of sperm DNA damage include the TUNEL assay, nick translation, SCSA, Comet assay, and SCD. Recently, other cytometricémethods have been proposed to measure other important sperm attributes such as theémitochondrial redox status, the capacity to undergo an acrosome reaction, and theépresence of apoptotic markers. In this review, the cytometric techniques used to evaluateésperm DNA/chromatin integrity together with some other functional properties of theémale gamete will be described and advantages and limitations will be discussed. © 2010 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMale and Female Infertility: Genetic Causes, Hormonal Treatments and Health Effects
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

Oliveira, H., Spanò, M., Santos, C., & Pereira, M. D. L. (2011). Flow cytometric analyses of sperm functions and genetic integrity. In Male and Female Infertility: Genetic Causes, Hormonal Treatments and Health Effects Nova Science Publishers, Inc..