Expression of obesity-related genes in human spermatozoa affects the outcomes of reproductive treatments

Gamete Biology

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VOLUME 2, ISSUE 2, P164-175, MAY 01, 2021


Sara C. Pereira, M.Sc., Ana D. Martins, Ph.D., Mariana P. Monteiro, M.D., Ph.D., Soraia Pinto, M.Sc., Alberto Barros, M.D., Ph.D., Pedro F. Oliveira, Ph.D., Marco G. Alves, Ph.D. 



To study the abundance of obesity-related gene (ORG) mRNA in human spermatozoa and its association with sperm quality parameters, embryonic development, and pregnancy rates after assisted reproduction treatment (ART).


Cross-sectional study of spermatozoa ORG mRNA expression, and sperm and embryonic development parameters of infertile couples attending a single ART center.


University, in collaboration with a medically assisted reproduction center.


One hundred six couples seeking fertility treatment and receiving ART.


Expression of spermatozoa ORG mRNA was assessed by quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Sperm and embryonic development parameters were measured by board-certified embryologists. Serum β-human chorionic gonadotropin levels and fetal heartbeat detection on ultrasound were used to document biochemical and clinical pregnancy, respectively.

Main Outcome Measure(s)

Correlations between the abundance of ORG transcripts in spermatozoa and sperm quality, embryonic development, and achievement of pregnancy.


The abundance of spermatozoa FTO mRNA was positively correlated with total sperm count (r = 0.5030), fertilization rate (r = 0.4854), embryo cleavage rate (r = 0.5705), and high-quality embryo rate (r = 0.6982). The abundance of spermatozoa MC4R transcript was negatively correlated with sperm viability (r = –0.3111) and positively correlated with biochemical pregnancy (r = 0.4420). The abundance of MC4R and GNPDA2 transcripts was higher in spermatozoa of men with asthenozoospermia and teratozoospermia than in those with normozoospermia.


To our knowledge, this is the first report showing that the abundance of MC4R and FTO transcripts in spermatozoa is associated with sperm and embryo quality parameters, as well as pregnancy rates. Overall, these results further support the view that male factors beyond classic sperm quality parameters, namely the abundance of ORG transcripts, also affect the outcome of ART.

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.