DOI: 10.3390/biomedicines11123345 ISSN: 2227-9059

A Possible Role for Nerve Growth Factor and Its Receptors in Human Sperm Pathology

Anna Maria Stabile, Alessandra Pistilli, Elena Moretti, Desirée Bartolini, Mariangela Ruggirello, Mario Rende, Cesare Castellini, Simona Mattioli, Rosetta Ponchia, Sergio Antonio Tripodi, Giulia Collodel
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

Nerve growth factor (NGF) signalling affects spermatogenesis and mature sperm traits. In this paper, we aimed to evaluate the distribution and the role of NGF and its receptors (p75NTR and TrKA) on the reproductive apparatus (testis and epididymis) and sperm of fertile men (F) and men with different pathologies, namely varicocele (V) and urogenital infections (UGIs). We collected semen samples from 21 individuals (31–40 years old) subdivided as follows: V (n = 7), UGIs (n = 7), and F (n = 7). We submitted the semen samples to bacteriological analysis, leucocyte identification, and analysis of sperm parameters (concentration, motility, morphology, and viability). We determined the seminal plasma levels of NGF, interleukin 1β (IL-1β), and F2-isoprostanes (F2-IsoPs), and the gene and protein expression of NGF receptors on sperm. We also used immunofluorescence to examine NGF receptors on ejaculated sperm, testis, and epididymis. As expected, fertile men showed better sperm parameters as well as lower levels of NGF, F2-IsoPs, and IL-1β compared with men with infertility. Notably, in normal sperm, p75NTR and TrKA were localised throughout the entire tail. TrKA was also found in the post-acrosomal sheath. This localisation appeared different in patients with infertility: in particular, there was a strong p75NTR signal in the midpiece and the cytoplasmic residue or coiled tails of altered ejaculated sperm. In line with these findings, NGF receptors were intensely expressed in the epididymis and interstitial tissue of the testis. These data suggest the distinctive involvement of NGF and its receptors in the physiology of sperm from fertile men and men with infertility, indicating a possible role for new targeted treatment strategies.

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