Relationship between seminal plasma levels of anandamide congeners palmitoylethanolamide and oleoylethanolamide and semen quality

Palmitoylethanolamide and oleoylethanolamide in human seminal plasma may preserve sperm functions and disturbances in their normal functioning by exocannabinoids found in Cannabis, could result in male reproductive failure.

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Akwasi Atakora Amoako, B.Sc., M.B., Ch.B., M.R.C.O.G., Ph.D., Timothy Hywel Marczylo, Ph.D., Janine Elson, M.D., F.R.C.O.G., Anthony Henry Taylor, Ph.D., Jonathon M. Willets, Ph.D., Justin Chi Konje, M.D., F.R.C.O.G.

Volume 102, Issue 5, Pages 1260-1267



To determine whether changes in seminal plasma concentrations of the endogenous lipid signaling molecules palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) and oleoylethanolamide (OEA) have significant effects on sperm quality.


Biochemical and physiological studies of human seminal plasma and spermatozoa.


Academic tertiary care medical center.


Ninety men attending an infertility clinic for semen analysis.


Palmitoylethanolamide and OEA extracted from seminal plasma were quantified by ultra high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-tandem mass spectrometry. Patient sperm from semen with normal parameters were exposed in vitro to PEA or OEA to determine effects on sperm motility, viability, and mitochondrial activity.

Main Outcome Measure(s):

The relationship between seminal plasma concentrations of PEA and OEA and sperm quality and the effect of these compounds on sperm motility, viability, and mitochondria activity in vitro.


Palmitoylethanolamide and OEA concentrations in seminal plasma were lower in men with asthenozoospermia and oligoasthenoteratozospermia compared with men with normal semen parameters. Palmitoylethanolamide and OEA rapidly and significantly improved sperm motility and maintained viability without affecting mitochondria activity in vitro.


Maintenance of normal PEA and OEA tone in human seminal plasma may be necessary for the preservation of normal sperm function and male fertility. Exocannabinoids found in Cannabis, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol, could compete with these endocannabinoids upsetting their finely balanced, normal functioning and resulting in male reproductive failure.

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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.