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African Journal of Reproductive Health
Women's Health and Action Research Centre
ISSN: 1118-4841
Vol. 13, Num. 3, 2009, pp. 123-125

African Journal of Reproductive Health, Vol 13, No 3, September 2009, pp 123-125


Deficiency of alpha-Tocopherol in Seminal Fluid as a Probable Factor in Low Fertility in Côte d’Ivoire

Carence en alpha-tocophérol du liquide séminal comme facteur potentiel de l’hypo-fertilité en Côte-d’Ivoire

François Diafouka1 and Gildas K. Gbassi2

1Département de Biochimie et Biologie de la reproduction, Faculté de pharmacie, Université de Cocody, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; 2Département de chimie analytique chimie générale et minérale, Faculté de pharmacie, Université de Cocody, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

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To evaluate the level of alpha-Tocopherol in seminal fluid of patients with low fertility, forty subjects with low fertility (17 with asthenospermia and 32 with oligoasthenospermia) and 21 subjects with normal sperm parameters were recruited into this study for assessing their alpha-Tocopherol seminal fluid level. The mean level of alpha-Tocopherol in subjects with normal sperm profile was 0.62 µmol/l compared to those with pathological profile such as asthenospermia (0.29 µmol/l) and oligoasthenospermia (0.28 µmol/l). The determination of alpha-Tocopherol in human seminal fluid provides useful information concerning the exploration of low fertility in Cote d’Ivoire (Afr J Reprod Health 2009; 13[3]:123-125).


Nous avons effectué cette étude afin d’évaluer la carence en alpha-tocophérol du liquide séminal des patients souffrant de l’hypo-fertilité masculine. Nous avons retenu dans l’étude 49 couples dont les maris souffraient de l’hypo-fertilité (17 asthénospermiques et 32 oligoasthénospermiques) et 21 couples normaux pour l’évaluation de leur carence séminale en alpha-tocophérol. La carence moyenne en alpha-tocophérol des sujets normaux était de 0,62 µmol/1 comparé aux profiles pathologiques (0,29 µmol/1) pour les asthénospermiques et 0,28 µmol/1 pour les oligoasthénospermiques. L’évaluation de la carence en alpha-tocophérol du liquide séminal humain a fourni des informations utiles concernant l’exploration de l’hypo-fertilité conjugale en Côte d’Ivoire (Afr J Reprod Health 2009; 13[3]:123-125).

KEYWORDS: alpha-Tocopherol; Seminal fluid; Hypofertility; Cote d’Ivoire.


Low fertility are major social and public health concerns in Côte d’Ivoire. Recent findings have shown that reactive oxygen species (ROS) have adverse effects on a range of sperm parameters including morphology and motility1. The sperm membrane is particularly susceptible to ROS damage2,6. To counteract the effect of ROS, semen must contain a number of antioxidant systems capable of reducing free radicals levels. An excessive amount of these free radicals in the ejaculate can initiate and propagate free radical chain reactions through lipid peroxidation of the spermatozoa membranes leading to sperm dysfunction1. Alpha-Tocopherol also known as vitamin E represents one of the most powerful antioxidant1,3,6. It also helps slow down the peroxidizing process of the ROS. In this study, alpha-Tocopherol level was determined in the seminal fluid of patients with low fertility


We determined the level of alpha-Tocopherol in the seminal fluid of 49 subjects with low fertility (17 with asthenospermia and 32 with oligoasthenospermia) and 21 subjects with normal sperm parameters (control group). The subjects recruited into this study were those that were married and living with a spouse during at least 2 years, without any sexually transmitted infections or treatment and declared negative to sperm culture. Semen was collected by masturbation after three to five days of sexual abstinence and was analyzed according to the world health organization guidelines7. Alpha-Tocophérol level was determined in the seminal fluid by liquid chromatography with fluorimetric detection according to a method described elsewhere4. Statistical analysis was performed using ANOVA test to compare mean differences between the three groups. Statistical significance was set at P < 0.05.

Results and Discussion

Table 1 shows the results of the current study compared to those obtained by previous authors. A significant difference (P < 0.05) was observed between the level of alpha-Tocophérol in the control group and the group of subjects with asthenospermia and those with oligoasthenospermia. Despite differences in laboratory methods and target population, our results are similar to those of three other reports in terms of significant differences between normal and pathological sperm profiles. According to Therond et al 6 the presence of alpha-Tocophérol in semen promotes the loss of free radicals activity. Subjects with low total antioxidant capacity in the semen had difficulty achieving pregnancy possibility compared to those with high rate1. Therapy with alpha-Tocopherol by oral route for low fertility may be considered as a potential treatment15. The determination of this antioxidant in this study provided useful information in the exploration of low fertility. However, further studies are needed to ascertain the level below which spermatozoa are exposed to ROS are protected from damage.


  1. Kessopoulou E, Powers HJ, Sharma KK, Pearson MJ, Russel JM, Cook ID et al. A double-blind randomized placebo cross-over controlled trial using the antioxidant vitamin E to treat reactive oxygen species associated male infertility. Fertil Steril 1995; 64(4): 825-31.

  2. Laudat A, Lecourbe K and Palluel AM. Peroxydation lipidique, profil morphologique de stress testiculaire et maturité nucléaire des spermatozoides. Ann Biol Clin 1999; 57: 51-6.

  3. Lewis SEM, Sterling ES, Young IS and Thompson W. Comparison of individual antioxidant of sperm and seminal plasma in fertile and infertile men. Fertil Steril 1997; 67(1):142-7.

  4. Omu AE, Fatinikum T, Mannazhath N and Abraham S. Significance of simultaneous

    determination of serum and seminal plasma alpha-tocopherol and retinol in infertile men by high performance liquid chromatography. Andrologia 1999; 31(6):347-54.
  5. Suleiman SA, Elamin AM, Zaki ZMS, El Malik EMA and Nasr MA. Lipid peroxidation and human sperm motility : Protective role of vitamin E. J Androl 1996; 17(5): 530-7.

  6. Therond P, Auger J, Legrand A and Jouannet

  7. P. α-tocopherol in human spermatozoa and seminal plasma: relationships with motility, antioxidant enzymes and leukocytes. Mol Hum Reprod 1996; 2(10): 739-44.
  8. World Health Organization (WHO). Laboratory Manual for the examination of human semen and sperm-cervical mucus interaction. 4th ed. Cambridge University Press; 1999: p.138.

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