Sperm DNA Fragmentation: Mechanisms of Origin

  • Monica MuratoriEmail author
  • Sara Marchiani
  • Lara Tamburrino
  • Elisabetta Baldi
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1166)


Spermatozoa have the task to deliver an intact paternal genome to the oocyte and to support a successful embryo development. The high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation (sDF) found in sub-/infertile men threat human reproduction and health of the offspring. Strategies to prevent the onset of this type of sperm damage are extensively sought.

sDF can be induced by factors like lifestyle-related habits, diseases, drugs, aging, infections and exposure to pollutants. At the cell level, all these factors induce sperm DNA breaks by three main mechanisms: apoptosis, impairment of sperm chromatin maturation and oxidative stress. Apoptosis and defects in maturation of sperm chromatin appear to act in the testis and account for DNA breaks found in dead ejaculated spermatozoa, whereas oxidative stress is likely inducing sDF during the transit through the male genital tracts and accounting for DNA breaks observed in viable spermatozoa of the ejaculate. Oxidative stress appears to be also the main mechanism responsible for induction of sDF after ejaculation, during in vitro manipulation of spermatozoa. Whether or not mature spermatozoa are able to trigger a cell death program is not yet clarified. In particular, it is not clear whether apoptotic nucleases or reactive oxygen species are responsible for producing DNA breaks in ejaculated mature spermatozoa. Knowledge of the mechanisms inducing sDF is a valuable starting point to define possible therapeutic options that however are still far to be established.


Sperm DNA fragmentation Chromatin maturation Abortive apoptosis Oxidative stress Reactive oxygen species Male infertility 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monica Muratori
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sara Marchiani
    • 2
  • Lara Tamburrino
    • 2
  • Elisabetta Baldi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences “Mario Serio”Unit of Sexual Medicine and Andrology, Center of Excellence DeNothe, University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Department of Experimental and Clinical MedicineUnit of Sexual Medicine and Andrology, Center of Excellence DeNothe, University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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