It is believed that one cause of sperm dysfunction might arise through multiple mitochondrial DNA deletions (Delta mtDNA) resulting in the formation of an incomplete electron transport chain. This study investigates the incidence of multiple Delta mtDNA in human spermatozoa prepared on Percoll gradients. Firstly, we investigated for the presence of two frequently analysed Delta mtDNA, the 4977 and 7.4 kb deletions, using conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR). These two deletions are characteristically flanked by direct repeats. We further analysed the incidence of one other deletion, the 15 bp deletion in the cytochrome c oxidase subunit III (COX III) of complex IV to determine whether other deletions flanked by direct repeats could be equally predictive. The incidence of these three deletions was not clearly associated with the diagnostic categorization of male infertility. However, the use of long PCR showed that samples harbouring high numbers of Delta mtDNA were associated with the diagnostic categorization of male infertility. We propose that these deletions could arise through a free radical-driven event occurring at the spermatogonial cell stage resulting in the replication of Delta mtDNA molecules at the expense of wild-type molecules. These anomalies in ejaculated sperm mtDNA could account for reproductive failure in some men.
- DNA, Mitochondrial/analysis
- Electron Transport Complex IV/genetics
- Gene Deletion