The current perspective on genetic and epigenetic factors in sperm maturation in the epididymis.

Ozkocer S. E. , Konac E.

Andrologia, vol.53, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 53
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1111/and.13989
  • Journal Name: Andrologia
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus, Academic Search Premier, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, EMBASE, Gender Studies Database, MEDLINE, Veterinary Science Database
  • Keywords: epididymis, epididymosomes, male infertility, small RNA, sperm maturation


Male infertility affects approximately 30% of infertile couples. As spermatozoa mature in the epididymal lumen, their potential for mobility increases, and their protein, lipid and small RNA (sRNA) content changes, whereas capacitation and fertilisation take place in the female reproductive tract. Both of the latter processes are affected by maturation, because impaired maturation causes premature capacitation and fertilization. The epididymis produces a suitable environment for sperm maturation via ion transport, vesicle secretion and protein matrix formation. The microenvironment for sperm maturation varies in three broad segments: the caput, the corpus and the cauda epididymis. Epididymosomes transfer proteins, lipids and sRNAs from the epididymal epithelium to spermatozoa and genetic alterations of epididymal genes can lead to decreased sperm motility, morphological abnormalities of spermatozoa and subfertility. Genetic factors are involved in all aetiological categories in male infertility. However, studies conducted on the genes involved in epididymal functions are limited. The sRNA content of spermatozoa changes during epididymal migration, and these sRNAs play a role in embryo development and epigenetic inheritance. This review aims to clarify the role of the epididymal epithelium in the maturation of spermatozoa in light of the current molecular genomic knowledge.