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Elemental composition of human semen is associated with motility and genomic sperm defects among older men.


Older men tend to have poorer semen quality and are generally at higher risks for infertility and abnormal reproductive outcomes.We employed proton-induced X-ray emission (PIXE, 3 MeV proton beam) to investigate the concentrations of zinc, copper, calcium, sulfur, chlorine, potassium, titanium, iron and nickel in washed sperm and seminal plasma from non-smoking groups of 10 older men (65-80 years old) and 10 younger men (22-28 years old) who were concurrently assayed for sperm function and genomicly defective sperm.The older group showed elevated zinc, copper and calcium in sperm and elevated sulfur in seminal plasma compared with the younger men. The older group also showed reduced motility as well as increased sperm DNA fragmentation, achondroplasia mutations, DNA strand breaks and chromosomal aberrations. Sperm calcium and copper were positively associated with sperm DNA fragmentation (P < 0.03). Seminal sulfur was positively associated with sperm DNA fragmentation and chromosomal aberrations (P < 0.04), and negatively associated with sperm motility (P < 0.05). Sperm calcium was negatively associated with sperm motility, independent of male age (P = 0.01).We identified major differences in elemental concentrations between sperm and seminal plasma and that higher sperm copper, sulfur and calcium are quantitatively associated with poorer semen quality and increased frequencies of genomic sperm defects.