Infertility is a clinical condition that affects around 15% of reproductive-aged couples worldwide. Around half of these cases are due to male factors, the most owing to idiopathic causes. The increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which leads to oxidative stress (OS), has been discussed in the last years as a possible cause of male idiopathic infertility. Superoxide anion (O2•−) and nitric oxide (NO) can react with each other contributing to the formation of peroxynitrite (ONOO−). This molecule can then act on spermatozoa proteins, leading to nitration of protein tyrosines – addition of a nitro (NO2) group – that is then manifested by the formation of 3-nitrotyrosine (3-NT). In turn, 3-NT may be responsible for the alteration or inactivation of the protein function.
This review will focus on the description of spermatozoa ROS, namely O2•−, NO and ONOO− and in their contribution to protein tyrosine nitration, namely by 3-NT formation. Previous results about the effect of ONOO− and 3-NT in spermatozoa will be presented, as well as, the methods that can be performed to detect the protein oxidation by these species. The impact of measuring, at the clinical level, 3-NT, considered a marker of OS, in spermatozoa will be discussed.