Research ArticleINFERTILITY

Deficient human β-defensin 1 underlies male infertility associated with poor sperm motility and genital tract infection

Science Translational Medicine  13 Aug 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 249, pp. 249ra108
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3009071

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Genital tract infection and reduced sperm motility are considered two pivotal etiological factors for male infertility associated with leukocytospermia and asthenozoospermia, respectively. We demonstrate that the amount of human β-defensin 1 (DEFB1) in sperm from infertile men exhibiting either leukocytospermia or asthenozoospermia, both of which are associated with reduced motility and reduced bactericidal activity in sperm, is much lower compared to that in normal fertile sperm. Interference with DEFB1 function also decreases both motility and bactericidal activity in normal sperm, whereas treatment with recombinant DEFB1 markedly restores DEFB1 expression, bactericidal activity, sperm quality, and egg-penetrating ability in sperm from both asthenozoospermia and leukocytospermia patients. DEFB1 interacts with chemokine receptor type 6 (CCR6) in sperm and triggers Ca2+ mobilization, which is important for sperm motility. Interference with CCR6 function also reduces motility and bactericidal activity of normal sperm. The present finding explains a common defect in male infertility associated with both asthenozoospermia and leukocytospermia, indicating a dual role of DEFB1 in defending male fertility. These results also suggest that the expression of DEFB1 and CCR6 may have diagnostic potential and that treatment of defective sperm with recombinant DEFB1 protein may be a feasible therapeutic approach for male infertility associated with poor sperm motility and genital tract infection.

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