Decreased very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in sperm correlates with sperm quantity and quality.


Section of Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, College of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, PO Box 26901, AAT 2400, Oklahoma City, OK, 73126, USA. [Email]


OBJECTIVE : To determine if levels of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFA; ≥ 28 carbons;4-6 double bonds) in human sperm correlate with sperm quantity and quality as determined by a complete semen analysis.
METHODS : Ejaculates from 70 men underwent a complete semen analysis, which included volume, count, motility, progression, agglutination, viscosity, morphology, and pH. For lipid analysis, sperm were pelleted to remove the semen. Lipids were extracted from the cell pellet and methyl esters of total lipids analyzed by gas chromatography. The sphingolipids were enriched and sphingomyelin (SM) species measured using tandem mass spectrometry. Pair-wise Pearson correlation and linear regression analysis compared percent VLC-PUFA-SM and percent docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to results from the semen analysis.
RESULTS : VLC-PUFA-SM species having 28-34 carbon fatty acids were detected in sperm samples, with 28 and 30 carbon VLC-PUFA as most the abundant. The sum of all VLC-PUFA-SM species comprised 0 to 6.1% of the overall SM pool (mean 2.1%). Pair-wise Pearson analyses showed that lower levels of VLC-PUFA-SM positively correlated with lower total motile count (0.68) and lower total count (0.67). Total VLC-PUFA-SM and mole % DHA (22:6n3) were not strongly correlated (- 0.24). Linear regression analysis confirmed these findings.
CONCLUSIONS : This study revealed a positive correlation between the levels of VLC-PUFA with sperm count and total motile count and suggests that both sperm quality and quantity may depend on the presence of VLC-PUFA. The lack of correlation between VLC-PUFA and DHA suggests that low VLC-PUFA levels do not result from inadequate PUFA precursors.


Fatty acids,Fertility,Motility,Sperm,Sperm count,Sperm lipids,Sphingomyelin,Very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids,