A critical investigation of NADPH oxidase activity in human spermatozoa.Mol Hum Reprod 2001; 7(3):237-44MH
It has been suggested that human spermatozoa contain an NADPH oxidase that could generate reactive oxygen species involved in signalling pathways to promote fertility. The proposal depends on observations that the addition of NADPH to purified human spermatozoa stimulates chemiluminescence by the superoxide (O2-) probe, lucigenin. We confirmed these observations, but demonstrated that lucigenin increases NADPH consumption by spermatozoa and stimulates artefactual O2- production via a diphenyleneiodonium (DPI) sensitive flavoprotein. In the absence of cytochrome c, DPI-inhibitable NADPH oxidation by permeabilized spermatozoa was 8 times too small to account for the rate of NADPH-stimulated cytochrome c reduction. Thus NADPH can directly reduce cytochrome c by a flavoprotein dependent mechanism making this O2- assay also unreliable in sperm suspensions. We were unable to observe O2- production by 40 x 10(6) spermatozoa/ml using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy but could identify O(2)(-) generation from 2000 4beta-phorbol-12-myristate-13-actetate (PMA)-stimulated leukocytes. Using spectrophotometry, we did not detect the reduced cytochrome b(558) component of the neutrophil NADPH oxidase in human spermatozoa. No hydrogen peroxide generation was observed using a sensitive Amplex Red assay. We conclude that human spermatozoa do not possess significant NADPH oxidase activity and that the mechanism by which NADPH promotes capacitation must be re-evaluated.