Prostasomes—their effects on human male reproduction and fertility

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Abstract

The prostate is a glandular male accessory sex organ vital for normal fertility. It provides the prostatic component of seminal plasma which nourishes and protects sperm following ejaculation. Prostasomes are small (40–500 nm) membrane-bound vesicles produced by epithelial cells lining the prostate acini and are a component of prostatic secretions. Although the existence of these particles has been known for many years, their full function and relevance to reproductive health are largely unknown. Proteomic studies have shown a wide range of proteins (enzymes, structural proteins and novel, unannotated proteins) present in or on the surface of prostasomes providing them with a diverse nature. Interestingly prostasomes are able to fuse with sperm, this event and the associated transfer of proteins lies at the heart of many of their proposed functions. Sperm motility is increased by the presence of prostasomes and their fusion prevents premature acrosome reactions. Prostasomes have been shown to aid protection of sperm within the female reproductive tract because of immunosuppressive, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Clinically these functions imply a role for prostasomes in male factor infertility. However, the very functions that promote fertility may have negative connotations in later life; recent work has suggested that prostasomes are involved in prostate cancer. Clearly more work is needed to clarify the role of these novel particles and their impact on men’s health.

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