Involvement of sperm plasma membrane and cytoskeletal proteins in human male infertility

Asthenozoospermic spermatozoa exhibited a modification in plasma membrane rheology, and a reduced immunohistochemical expression of ezrin, Cdc42, CD9, F-actin, and b-tubulin, which could contribute to sperm functional impairment.

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Eleonora Salvolini, Ph.D., Eddi Buldreghini, Ph.D., Guendalina Lucarini, B.Sc., Arianna Vignini, Ph.D., Andrea Lenzi, M.D., Roberto Di Primio, M.D., Giancarlo Balercia, M.D.

Volume 99, Issue 3, Pages 697-704, 1 March 2013



To assess the physicochemical characteristics of sperm plasma membrane and to evaluate the immunohistochemical expression of transmembrane and cytoskeletal proteins in spermatozoa isolated from normospermic fertile donors and asthenozoospermic infertile patients.


Case-control study.


Andrology Unit, Department of Clinical and Molecular Sciences, and Department of Clinical Specialistic and Odontostomatologic Sciences, Polytechnic University of Marche, Ancona, Italy.


Twenty-five infertile patients affected by idiopathic asthenozoospermia and 21 normospermic fertile donors, age-matched.


Sperm parameters were evaluated; membrane fluidity and hydration studies, and immunohistochemical analysis was performed in isolated spermatozoa.

Main Outcome Measures:

Semen analyses, to ascertain volume, sperm count, motility, and morphology; then membrane fluidity and hydration studies, and immunohistochemical analysis were performed in isolated spermatozoa.


Spermatozoa from the asthenozoospermic group exhibited a reduced fluidity at the lipid-water interface level, an increased fluidity of the deeper portion of the bilayer, and a lower plasma membrane hydration than normospermic cells. Moreover, the immunohistochemical expression of ezrin, Cdc42, CD9, F-actin, and β-tubulin was higher in normospermic samples.


Our results together assume 1 that a cytoskeletal reorganization induced by a disturbance in the physico-chemical features of sperm plasma membrane, and potentially mediated by ezrin, Cdc 42 and tetraspanin CD9, could have a role in idiopathic asthenozoospermia.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.