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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2 (2009), Issue 2, Pages 73-81

Pro-Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Pathways which Compromise Sperm Motility and Survival May Be Altered by L-Carnitine

Department of Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Received 11 February 2009; Revised 14 February 2009; Accepted 16 February 2009

Copyright © 2009 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The testis is an immunologically privileged organ. Sertoli cells can form a blood-testis barrier and protect sperm cells from self-immune system attacks. Spermatogenesis may be inhibited by severe illness, bacterial infections and chronic inflammatory diseases but the mechanism(s) is poorly understood. Our objective is to help in understanding such mechanism(s) to develop protective agents against temporary or permanent testicular dysfunction. Lipopolysaccaride (LPS) is used as a model of animal sepsis while L-carnitine (LCR) is used as a protective agent. A total of 60 male Swiss albino rats were divided into four groups (15/group). The control group received Saline; the 2nd group was given LCR (500 mg/kg i.p, once). The third group was treated with LPS (5 mg/kg i.p once) and the fourth group received LCR then LPS after three hours. From each group, five rats were used for histopathological examination. Biochemical parameters were assessed in the remaining ten rats. At the end of the experiment, animals were lightly anaesthetized with ether where blood samples were collected and testes were dissected on ice. Sperm count and motility were evaluated from cauda epididymis in each animal. Also, oxidative stress was evaluated by measuring testicular contents of reduced glutathione (GSH), malondialdehyde (MDA) and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-HDG, the DNA adduct for oxidative damage) in testicular DNA. The pro-inflammatory mediator nitric oxide (NO) in addition to lactate dehydrogenase (LDHx) isoenzyme-x activity as an indicator for normal spermatozoal metabolism were assessed in testicular homogenate. Serum interlukin (IL)-2 level was also assessed as a marker for T-helper cell function. The obtained data revealed that LPS induced marked reductions in sperm's count and motility, obstruction in seminiferous tubules, hypospermia and dilated congested blood vessels in testicular sections concomitant with decreased testicular GSH content and LDHx activity. Moreover, the testicular levels of MDA, 8-HDG (in testicular DNA) and NO as well as serum IL-2 level were increased. Administration of LCR before LPS returned both sperm count and motility to normal levels. Also, contents of testicular GSH, MDA, 8-HDG and NO returned back to the corresponding control values. In addition, serum IL-2 level as well as histological abnormalities were markedly improved in LCR + LPS-treated rats. In conclusion, LPS increased proinflammatory and oxidative stress markers in the testis leading to a marked testicular dysfunction. L-carnitine administration ameliorates these effects by antioxidant and/or anti-inflammatory mechanisms suggesting a protective role against male infertility in severely infected or septic patients.