COVID-19–associated inhibition of energy accumulation pathways in human semen samples

Gamete Biology

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VOLUME 2, ISSUE 4, P355-364, NOVEMBER 01, 2021


Leila Adamyan, M.D., Ph.D., Vladimir Elagin, M.D., Ph.D., Valeriy Vechorko, M.D., Ph.D., Assia Stepanian, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., Anton Dashko, M.D., Ph.D., Dmitriy Doroshenko, M.D., Ph.D., Yana Aznaurova, M.D., Ph.D. , Maxim Sorokin, Ph.D., Maria Suntsova, Ph.D., Alexei Drobyshev, Ph.D., Andrew Garazha, M.Sc., Anton Buzdin, Ph.D.



To investigate transcriptional alterations in human semen samples associated with COVID-19 infection.


Retrospective observational cohort study.


City hospital.


Ten patients who had recovered from mild COVID-19 infection. Eight of these patients had different sperm abnormalities that were diagnosed before infection. The control group consisted of 5 healthy donors without known abnormalities and no history of COVID-19 infection.


We used RNA sequencing to determine gene expression profiles in all studied biosamples. Original standard bioinformatic instruments were used to analyze activation of intracellular molecular pathways.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Routine semen analysis, gene expression levels, and molecular pathway activation levels in semen samples.


We found statistically significant inhibition of genes associated with energy production pathways in the mitochondria, including genes involved in the electron transfer chain and genes involved in toll-like receptor signaling. All protein-coding genes encoded by the mitochondrial genome were significantly down-regulated in semen samples collected from patients after recovery from COVID-19.


Our results may provide a molecular basis for the previously observed phenomenon of decreased sperm motility associated with COVID-19 infection. Moreover, the data will be beneficial for the optimization of preconception care for men who have recently recovered from COVID-19 infection.

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.