Glutathione and Glutathione-S-Receptors in Male Fertility - Naturopathic Medicine in Ottawa
Glutathione is one of the most powerful antioxidants in the human body. It has a role in protecting us from harmful Electrophilic compounds that are a result of oxidative stress in the body. In male mammalian fertility, the role of oxidative stress in harming the quality of sperm cells is significant.
Oxidative stress in the sperm cells is the result of an imbalance in the antioxidant capacity and the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are produced by cellular respiration and energy production. In cells that need to produce a high amount of energy, such as sperm cells, the internal production of ROS is increased. ROS can also be external, as a result of environmental factors, diet, lifestyle and general health status. Examples of some ROS are: superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide and peroxyl radicals to name a few.
The electrophilic compounds produced by these ROS lead to cell damage and can increase the DNA fragmentation rate of sperm cells and they also decrease sperm motility.
Glutathione is one of the most heavily concentrated antioxidants in the seminal fluid and help to neutralize the electrophilic compounds and reduce their ability to harm the sperm cells.
One of the main receptors for glutathione, glutathione-s-transferase (GST), is located on the cell membrane of sperm cells. They use the glutathione to help neutralize the electrophilic compounds.
In the simplified diagram above, Glutathione (GSH) is utilized by the GST receptor on a sperm cell to deactivate the electrophilic compound to EC-SG. In this process the GSH gets converted to glutathione disulfide (GSSG).
Since almost 50% of male infertility cases are unexplained, the role of oxidative stress and its harm to sperm health is being more closely studied. Improving total antioxidant capacity and supporting better detoxification from electrophilic compounds in the seminal fluid may present an integrative approach to supporting fertility, especially in couples with male-factor infertility or unexplained infertility.