Cytokines and male infertility

Vassiliki Syriou, Dimitrios Papanikolaou, Ariadni Kozyraki, Dimitrios G Goulis
European Cytokine Network 2018 September 1, 29 (3): 73-82
Many male infertility cases have no apparent cause, being characterized as idiopathic. Both inflammation and obesity have long been associated with infertility. On one hand, inflammation, such as orchitis and male accessory gland infections (MAGIs), are regulated by inflammatory cytokines. The latter are also produced in the testis by Leydig and Sertoli cells, being associated with gap junctional communication at the blood-testis barrier. Furthermore, they regulate spermatogenesis through cell interaction, Toll-like receptors and production of reactive oxygen species. Additionally, they affect testosterone production, acting at many levels of the pituitary - gonadal axis. Any imbalance in their production may result in infertility. On the other hand, obesity has also been associated with infertility. Adipokines, cytokines produced by white adipose tissue, regulate the lipid and glucose metabolism and the inflammatory system. Recent data on leptin show that it regulates reproduction by adjusting hypothalamus - pituitary - gonadal axis at both the central and peripheral levels. In this regard, resistin, visfatin and the GH secretagogue peptic hormone ghrelin affect spermatogenesis, whereas data on adiponectin are rather scarce. In conclusion, inflammatory cytokines and adipokines seem to have a pivotal role in the regulation of spermatogenesis; any imbalance in this stable environment may lead to infertility. Nevertheless, further studies are needed to clarify their exact role.

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