PROBLEM: Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) exists abundantly in seminal plasma and its receptor, c-met, is expressed on spermatozoa. Considering its motogenic activity, we speculated that HGF might affect the movement ability of spermatozoa.
METHODS: Recombinant HGF was added to washed spermatozoa and their movements were analyzed using a computer-assisted sperm analyzer. The concentration of HGF in the seminal plasma of infertile patients (n =83) was measured by ELISA, and the data were compared with their hormonal profile and semen parameters.
RESULTS: The HGF physiological concentration (1 ng/mL) maintained the motility of sperm after a long incubation, though the difference was not statistically significant. Recombinant HGF did not affect the linearity or frequency of movement, which suggested that it does not evoke the hyperactivation of spermatozoa. The concentration of HGF in seminal plasma did not correlate with any clinical parameter of the patients.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings contradict the theory that HGF controls the movement of sperm. The main role of this axis in the male reproductive system might be maturation in the epididymis.