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Logo of bmcurolBioMed Centralsearchsubmit a manuscriptregisterthis articleBMC Urology
BMC Urol. 2012; 12: 6.
Published online 2012 March 19. doi:  10.1186/1471-2490-12-6
PMCID: PMC3349502

Impact of seminal trace element and glutathione levels on semen quality of Tunisian infertile men



Growing evidence indicates that oxidative stress can be a primary cause of male infertility. Non-enzymatic antioxidants play an important protective role against oxidative damages and lipid peroxidation. Human seminal plasma is a natural reservoir of antioxidants. The aim of this study was to determine glutathione (GSH) concentrations, trace element levels (zinc and selenium) and the lipid peroxidation end product, malondialdehyde (MDA), in the seminal plasma of men with different fertility potentials.


Semen samples from 60 fertile men (normozoospermics) and 190 infertile patients (74 asthenozoospermics, 56 oligozoospermics, and 60 teratozoospermics) were analyzed for physical and biochemical parameters. Zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) levels were estimated by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Total GSH (GSHt), oxidized GSH (GSSG), reduced GSH (GSHr) and MDA concentrations were measured spectrophotometrically.


Zn and Se concentrations in seminal plasma of normozoospermics were more elevated than the three abnormal groups. Nevertheless, only the Zn showed significant differences. On the other hand, Zn showed positive and significant correlations with sperm motility (P = 0.03, r = 0.29) and count (P < 0.01, r = 0.49); however Se was significantly correlated only with sperm motility (P < 0.01, r = 0.36). GSHt, GSSG and GSHr were significantly higher in normozoospermics than in abnormal groups. We noted a significant association between seminal GSHt and sperm motility (P = 0.03). GSSG was highly correlated to sperm motility (P < 0.001) and negatively associated to abnormal morphology (P < 0.001). GSHr was significantly associated to total sperm motility (P < 0.001) and sperm count (P = 0.01). MDA levels were significantly higher in the three abnormal groups than in normozoospermics. Rates of seminal MDA were negatively associated to sperm motility (P < 0.01; r = -0.24) and sperm concentration (P = 0.003; r = -0.35) Meanwhile, there is a positive correlation between seminal lipid peroxidation and the percentage of abnormal morphology (P = 0.008).


This report revealed that decreased seminal GSH and trace element deficiencies are implicated in low sperm quality and may be an important indirect biomarker of idiopathic male infertility. Our results sustain that the evaluation of seminal antioxidant status in infertile men is necessary and can be helpful in fertility assessment from early stages.

Keywords: Antioxidants, Idiopathic oligoasthenoteratozoospermia, Male infertility, Oxidative stress, Reactive oxygen species, Spermatozoa, Seminal plasma

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