The Semen pH Affects Sperm Motility and Capacitation.

Research paper by Ji J Zhou, Li L Chen, Jie J Li, Hongjun H Li, Zhiwei Z Hong, Min M Xie, Shengrong S Chen, Bing B Yao

Indexed on: 15 Jul '15Published on: 15 Jul '15Published in: PloS one


As the chemical environment of semen can have a profound effect on sperm quality, we examined the effect of pH on the motility, viability and capacitation of human sperm. The sperm in this study was collected from healthy males to avoid interference from other factors. The spermatozoa cultured in sperm nutrition solution at pH 5.2, 6.2, 7.2 and 8.2 were analyzed for sperm total motility, progressive motility (PR), hypo-osmotic swelling (HOS) rate, and sperm penetration. Our results showed that these parameters were similar in pH 7.2 and 8.2 sperm nutrition solutions, but decreased in pH 5.2 and 6.2 solutions. The HOS rate exhibited positive correlation with the sperm total motility and PR. In addition, the sperm Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity at different pHs was measured, and the enzyme activity was significantly lower in pH 5.2 and 6.2 media, comparing with that in pH 8.2 and pH 7.2 solutions. Using flow cytometry (FCM) and laser confocal scanning microscopy (LCSM) analysis, the intracellular Ca2(+ )concentrations of sperm cultured in sperm capacitation solution at pH 5.2, 6.2, 7.2 and 8.2 were determined. Compared with that at pH 7.2, the mean fluorescence intensity of sperm in pH 5.2 and 6.2 media decreased significantly, while that of pH 8.2 group showed no difference. Our results suggested that the declined Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity at acidic pHs result in decreased sperm movement and capacitation, which could be one of the mechanisms of male infertility.