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Keywords:

  • sperm fertilizing capacity;
  • phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors;
  • spermatozoa;
  • testis;
  • male infertility

Abstract

The aim of this review study is to elucidate the effects that phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) inhibitors exert on spermatozoa motility, capacitation process and on their ability to fertilize the oocyte. Second messenger systems such as the cAMP/adenylate cyclase (AC) system and the cGMP/guanylate cyclase (GC) system appear to regulate sperm functions. Increased levels of intracytosolic cAMP result in an enhancement of sperm motility and viability. The stimulation of GC by low doses of nitric oxide (NO) leads to an improvement or maintenance of sperm motility, whereas higher concentrations have an adverse effect on sperm parameters. Several in vivo and in vitro studies have been carried out in order to examine whether PDE5 inhibitors affect positively or negatively sperm parameters and sperm fertilizing capacity. The results of these studies are controversial. Some of these studies demonstrate no significant effects of PDE5 inhibitors on the motility, viability, and morphology of spermatozoa collected from men that have been treated with PDE5 inhibitors. On the other hand, several studies demonstrate a positive effect of PDE5 inhibitors on sperm motility both in vivo and in vitro. In vitro studies of sildenafil citrate demonstrate a stimulatory effect on sperm motility with an increase in intracellular cAMP suggesting an inhibitory action of sildenafil citrate on a PDE isoform other than the PDE5. On the other hand, tadalafil's actions appear to be associated with the inhibitory effect of this compound on PDE11. In vivo studies in men treated with vardenafil in a daily basis demonstrated a significantly larger total number of spermatozoa per ejaculate, quantitative sperm motility, and qualitative sperm motility; it has been suggested that vardenafil administration enhances the secretory function of the prostate and subsequently increases the qualitative and quantitative motility of spermatozoa. The effect that PDE5 inhibitors exert on sperm parameters may lead to the improvement of the outcome of assisted reproductive technology (ART) programs. In the future PDE5 inhibitors might serve as adjunct therapeutical agents for the alleviation of male infertility.