Various systems of antioxidants exist endogenously in the body to help protect it against free radical damage by scavenging excessive ROS and RNS.
Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland, and responsible for controlling the circadian rhythm, is one such endogenous antioxidant. Melatonin has been reported to be present in human seminal fluid, but its antioxidant activities in semen are rather contradictory.
This study aimed at establishing the effects of melatonin treatment on human spermatozoa. Spermatozoa were incubated with 2 mm melatonin (120 min, 37 degrees C, 5% CO(2)) after which motility parameters were measured by computer aided motility analysis, while cell viability (PI), intracellular NO (DAF-2/DA) and ROS (DCFH-DA) were assessed using flow cytometry. In vitro melatonin treated samples (n = 12) showed a significantly higher percentage of motile, progressive motile and rapid cells, while simultaneously reducing the number of nonviable spermatozoa when compared with the control. Endogenous NO was significantly decreased, but no effect was observed on ROS levels.
From these results, it can be concluded that melatonin was able to directly or indirectly scavenge NO, as indicated by the reduction in 4,5-diaminofluorescein-2/diacetate fluorescence. Future studies will indicate whether melatonin treatment during sperm preparation techniques could protect spermatozoa from excessive NO production.