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Volume 24, Issue 5 (September 2022) 24, 451–457; 10.4103/aja2021107

Levels of L-carnitine in human seminal plasma are associated with sperm fatty acid composition

Mario Iliceto1,2, Mette Haug Stensen1, Jorunn M Andersen2, Trine B Haugen2, Oliwia Witczak2

1 Fertilitetssenteret, Oslo 0176, Norway
2 Department of Life Sciences and Health, OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo 0130, Norway

Correspondence: Mr. M Iliceto (marioi@oslomet.no)

Date of Submission 05-May-2021 Date of Acceptance 12-Nov-2021 Date of Web Publication 07-Jan-2022


The fatty acid composition of spermatozoa has been shown to be important for their function, and L-carnitine is crucial for fatty acid metabolism. Its levels in the seminal plasma positively correlate with semen quality, whereas high body mass index (BMI) is associated with both reduced semen quality and altered sperm fatty acid composition. Here, we examined the associations between free seminal L-carnitine levels and sperm fatty acid composition as well as BMI. Semen samples were collected and analyzed from 128 men with unknown fertility status and with BMI ranging from 19 kg m−2 to 63 kg m−2. Sperm fatty acid composition was assessed by gas chromatography, while free seminal L-carnitine analysis was performed using high-performance liquid chromatography. Multiple linear regression analysis showed a positive correlation of free seminal L-carnitine levels with the amount of sperm palmitic acid (β = 0.21; P = 0.014), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; β = 0.23; P = 0.007), and total n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (β = 0.23; P = 0.008) and a negative correlation of free seminal L-carnitine levels with lignoceric acid (β = −0.29; P = 0.001) and total n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (β = −0.24; P = 0.012) when adjusted for covariates. There was no relationship between free seminal L-carnitine levels and BMI. Since free seminal L-carnitine levels are associated with semen quality, the absence of a correlation with BMI suggests that reduced semen quality in obese men is independent of seminal L-carnitine.

Keywords: body mass index; L-carnitine; male fertility; semen quality; sperm fatty acids; spermatozoa

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Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.