Cellular response to reactive oxygen species (ROS) includes both reversible redox signaling and irreversible nonenzymatic reactions which depend on the nature and concentration of the ROS involved. Changes in thiol/disulfide pairs affect protein conformation, enzymatic activity, ligand binding, and protein–protein interactions. During spermatogenesis and epididymal maturation, there are ROS-dependent modifications of the sperm chromatin and flagellar proteins. The spermatozoon is regulated by redox mechanisms to acquire fertilizing ability. For this purpose, controlled amounts of ROS are necessary to assure sperm activation (motility and capacitation). Modifications of the thiol groups redox status of sperm proteins are needed for spermatozoon to achieve fertilizing ability. However, when ROS are produced at high concentrations, the established oxidative stress promotes pathological changes affecting sperm function and leading to infertility. Sperm proteins are sensitive to high levels of ROS and suffermodifications that impact onmotility, capacitation, and the ability of the spermatozoon to recognize and bind to the zona pellucida and damage of sperm DNA. Thiol oxidation, tyrosine nitration, and S-glutathionylation are highlighted in this review as significant redox-dependent protein modifications associated with impairment of sperm function and alteration of paternal genome leading to infertility. Peroxiredoxins, the primary antioxidant protection in spermatozoa, are affected by most of the protein modifications described in this review. They play a significant role in both physiological and pathological processes in mammalian spermatozoa.
Reactive oxygen species promote redox-dependent protein modifications that lead to impairment of sperm function.