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Keywords:

  • all-trans retinoic acid;
  • male infertility;
  • meiosis;
  • spermatogenesis

Abstract

Intratesticular retinoic acid is necessary for spermatogenesis, but the relationship between intratesticular retinoic acid and sperm quality in man has not been studied. We hypothesized that intratesticular concentrations of retinoic acid would be lower in men with abnormal semen analyses compared to men with normal semen analyses. We recruited men requiring scrotal or penile surgery in a pilot observational study examining the relationship between sperm quality and intratesticular and serum retinoic acid. Twenty-four men provided two pre-operative blood and semen samples, and underwent a testicular biopsy during surgery. Serum and tissue all-trans and 13-cis retinoic acid and reproductive hormones were measured by LC/MS/MS and radioimmunoassays, respectively. Seven men had abnormal semen analyses by at least one WHO criteria and 17 men were normal. In men with abnormal semen, the median (25th, 75th percentile) intratesticular 13-cis retinoic acid was 0.14 (0.08, 0.25) pmol/gram tissue compared with 0.26 (0.18, 0.38) pmol/gram tissue in men with normal semen (p = 0.04). There were no significant differences in intratesticular all-trans retinoic acid or serum reproductive hormones between men with normal and abnormal semen analyses. Intratesticular 13-cis retinoic acid is significantly lower in men with abnormal semen analyses compared to men with normal semen analyses. Lower intratesticular 13-cis retinoic acid concentrations may be due to decreased biosynthesis or increased metabolism in the testes. Further investigation of the relationship between intratesticular 13-cis retinoic acid and poor sperm quality is warranted to determine if this association is present in infertile men.