Differential sperm histone retention in normozoospermic ejaculates of infertile men negatively affects sperm functional competence and embryo quality

Riddhi Kirit Pandya, Ameya Jijo, Aswathi Cheredath, Shubhashree Uppangala, Sujith Raj Salian, Vani R. Lakshmi, Pratap Kumar, Guruprasad Kalthur, Sanjay Gupta, Satish Kumar Adiga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The unique epigenetic architecture that sperm cells acquire during spermiogenesis by retaining <15% of either canonical or variant histone proteins in their genome is essential for normal embryogenesis. Whilst heterogeneous levels of retained histones are found in morphologically normal spermatozoa, their effect on reproductive outcomes is not fully understood. Methods: Processed spermatozoa (n = 62) were tested for DNA integrity by sperm chromatin dispersion assay, and retained histones were extracted and subjected to dot-blot analysis. The impact of retained histone modifications in normozoospermic patients on sperm functional characteristics, embryo quality, metabolic signature in embryo spent culture medium and pregnancy outcome was studied. Results: Dot-blot analysis showed heterogeneous levels of retained histones in the genome of normozoospermic ejaculates. Post-wash sperm yield was affected by an increase in H3K27Me3 and H4K20Me3 levels in the sperm chromatin (p < 0.05). Also, spermatozoa with higher histone H3 retention had increased DNA damage (p < 0.05). Spermatozoa from these cohorts, when injected into donor oocytes, correlated to a significant decrease in the fertilisation rate with an increase in sperm histone H3 (p < 0.05) and H3K27Me3 (p < 0.01). An increase in histone H3 negatively affected embryo quality (p < 0.01) and clinical pregnancy outcome post-embryo transfer (p < 0.05). On the other hand, spent culture medium metabolites assessed by high-resolution (800 MHz) nuclear magnetic resonance showed an increased intensity of the amino acid methionine in the non-pregnant group than in the pregnant group (p < 0.05) and a negative correlation with sperm histone H3 in the pregnant group (p < 0.05). Discussion and conclusion: Histone retention in spermatozoa can be one of the factors behind the development of idiopathic male infertility. Such spermatozoa may influence embryonic behaviour and thereby affect the success rate of assisted reproductive technology procedures. These results, although descriptive in nature, warrant further research to address the underlying mechanisms behind these clinically important observations.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Urology


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