Study type: Medical/biological study (experimental study)

Involvement of mitochondrial activity in mediating ELF-EMF stimulatory effect on human sperm motility med./bio.

Published in: Bioelectromagnetics 2011; 32 (1): 15-27

Aim of study (acc. to author)

To study the relationship between the sperm motility and the energy metabolism in human sperm exposed to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields. Moreover, the energy contribution of mitochondrial respiration and glycolysis to the enhancement of sperm motility induced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields was also assessed. In addition, the same evaluations were carried out when glycolytic (glucose) or mitochondrial (lactate and pyruvate) substrates were added and when glycolytic or mitochondrial metabolism were inhibited.

Background/further details

A previous study showed that extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields with a square wave form of 5 mT intensity and 50 Hz frequency was able to promote human sperm motility (see Iorio et al. 2007).
To inhibit mitochondrial activity, the spermatozoa were incubated with medium containing carbamoyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CICCP). To inhibit glycolytic metabolism, spermatozoa were incubated in medium containing 2-deoxy-D-glucose.
All experiments were replicated at least five times.



Exposure Parameters
Exposure 1: 50 Hz
Modulation type: pulsed
Exposure duration: continuous for 1 h, 2 hr or 3 hr

Exposure 1

Main characteristics
Frequency 50 Hz
  • rectangular
Exposure duration continuous for 1 h, 2 hr or 3 hr
Modulation type pulsed
Duty cycle 50 %
Exposure setup
Exposure source
Setup 200 mm long solenoid with a diameter of 160 mm amd 511 turns placed in an incubator with a constant temperature of 37° C, 100 % relative humidity and an atmosphere of 95 % air and 5 % CO2; constant magnetic field in a 10 mm long cylindrical region with a diameter of 10 mm inside the solenoid; samples placed in the core of the solenoid
Sham exposure A sham exposure was conducted.
Measurand Value Type Method Mass Remarks
magnetic flux density 5 mT - measured and calculated - -

Reference articles

  • Iorio R et al. (2007): A preliminary study of oscillating electromagnetic field effects on human spermatozoon motility

Exposed system:

Methods Endpoint/measurement parameters/methodology

Investigated system:
Time of investigation:
  • after exposure

Main outcome of study (acc. to author)

Extremely low frequency electromagnetic field exposure resulted in a progressive and significant increase of mitochondrial membrane potential and levels of ATP, ADP and NAD+ that was associated with a progressive and significant increase in the sperm kinematic parameters. No significant effects were detected on other parameters such as ATP/ADP ratio and energy charge. Thus, the data showed that the stimulatory effect exerted by the extremely low frequency electromagnetic field on sperm motility characteristics was associated with increases in mitochondrial membrane potential and levels of ATP, ADP and NAD+, suggesting an important role of mitochondrial metabolism in the energy production required for flagellar movement.
When mitochondrial activity was inhibited and glucose was the only source of energy in the medium (to promote glycolysis), the values of energy parameters and sperm motility in sperms exposed to extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields did not change (compared with sham exposed sperm samples). Thus glycolysis was not involved in mediating magnetic fields stimulatory effect on sperm motility.
By contrast, when pyruvate and lactate (as mitochondrial substrates) were provided instead of glucose and under inhibition of glycolysis by 2-deoxy-D-glucose, the energy status and sperm motility increased significantly in electromagnetic field exposed sperm samples.
In conclusion, the data revealed a key role of mitochondria in mediating the electromagnetic field stimulatory effect on human sperm motility.

Study character:

Study funded by

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