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Prohibitin (PHB) is a highly conserved major sperm mitochondrial membrane protein whose absence in somatic cells is associated with mitochondrial membrane depolarization and increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Our recent findings suggest that high levels of oxidants in human semen may contribute to male infertility and that sperm motility could be the earliest and most sensitive indicator of oxidative damage. Based on PHB's roles in mitochondrial sub-compartmentalization and respiratory chain assembly, we examine sperm PHB expression and mitochondrial membrane potential (MITO) in infertile men with poor sperm motility (asthenospermia, A) and/or low sperm concentrations (oligoasthenospermia, OA). Here, we demonstrate that MITO is significantly lower in sperm from A and OA subjects than in normospermic (N) subjects; the decrease is more severe for OA than for A subjects. PHB expression is also significantly lower in sperm from A and OA subjects. Significantly positive correlations are found among PHB expression, MITO, and sperm motility in normospermic, asthenospermic, and oligoasthenospermic subjects. Collectively, our observations lead to the hypothesis that PHB expression is an indicator of sperm quality in infertile men, and that it regulates sperm motility via an alteration in MITO and increased ROS levels.


Mei-Jiao Wang, Jia-Xian Ou, Guo-Wu Chen, Jun-Ping Wu, Hui-Juan Shi, Wai-Sum O, Patricia A Martin-DeLeon, Hong Chen. Does prohibitin expression regulate sperm mitochondrial membrane potential, sperm motility, and male fertility? Antioxidants & redox signaling. 2012 Aug 1;17(3):513-9

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PMID: 22324369

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