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Volume 17, Issue 6 (November 2015) 17, 948–953; 10.4103/1008-682X.150844

The effects of diabetes on male fertility and epigenetic regulation during spermatogenesis

Guo-Lian Ding1,2,*, Ye Liu1,2,*, Miao-E Liu1,2, Jie-Xue Pan1,2, Meng-Xi Guo2, Jian-Zhong Sheng3, He-Feng Huang1,2

1 International Peace Maternity and Child Health Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200030, China.
2 The Key Laboratory of Reproductive Genetics, Ministry of Education (Zhejiang University), Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China.
3 Department of Pathology and Pathophysiology, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310058, China.
* These authors contributed equally to this work.

Correspondence: Dr. HF Huang (huanghefg@hotmail.com)



The effects of diabetes mellitus include long-term damages, dysfunctions, and failures of various organs. An important complication of diabetes is the disturbance in the male reproductive system. Glucose metabolism is an important event in spermatogenesis. Moreover, glucose metabolism is also important for maintaining basic cell activity as well as specific functions, such as motility and fertilization ability in mature sperm. Diabetic disease and experimentally induced diabetes both demonstrated that either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes could have detrimental effects on male fertility, especially on sperm quality, such as sperm motility, sperm DNA integrity and ingredients of seminal plasma. Epigenetic modifications are essential during spermatogenesis. The epigenetic regulation represents chromatin modifications including DNA methylation, histone modifications, remodeling of nucleosomes and the higher-order chromatin reorganization and noncoding RNAs. If spermatogenesis is affected during the critical developmental window, embryonic gonadal development, and germ line differentiation, environmentally-induced epigenetic modifications may become permanent in the germ line epigenome and have a potential impact on subsequent generations through epigenetic transgenerational inheritance. Diabetes may influence the epigenetic modification during sperm spermatogenesis and that these epigenetic dysregulation may be inherited through the male germ line and passed onto more than one generation, which in turn may increase the risk of diabetes in offspring.

Keywords: diabetes; epigenetic regulation; sperm; spermatogenesis

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