Effectiveness of a Walnut-Enriched Diet on Murine Sperm: Involvement of Reduced Peroxidative Damage

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ABSTRACT

Background

A walnut supplement for a Western-style diet in men was shown to improve sperm motility, vitality, and morphology. To gain further insights into factors underlying this improvement, we administered a parallel walnut-enriched diet to mice [including those with a defect in sperm motility due to deletion of Plasma Membrane Ca2+-ATPase 4 (Pmca4−/−)] to determine if there is a similar improvement that is accompanied by reduced sperm membrane peroxidative damage. Although sperm vitality and acrosome reaction rate were unaffected, the diet led to a significant improvement in motility (P < 0.05) and morphology (P < 0.04) in wild-type sperm and in morphology (P < 0.01) in Pmca4−/−, confirming the diet's efficacy, which appeared to be more modest in mice than in humans. In both strains of mice, the diet resulted in a significant decrease in sperm lipid peroxidation (oxidative stress) levels, but did not rescue the significantly increased apoptotic levels seen in the testis and epididymis of Pmca4 nulls. Our findings support the effectiveness of walnuts on sperm quality, associated with reduced peroxidative damage; and suggest that oxidative stress is involved in the mechanism(s) underlying male reproductive defects in Pmca4−/−.