Modulation of mammalian sperm motility by quercetin

Lea Nass‐Arden, Haim Breitbart

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28 Scopus citations


The flavonoid quercetin inhibits collective motility of ejaculated ram spermatozoa in the first 2 hr of incubation; during the next 3–4 hr motility is stimulated. To explain this interesting effect, we followed the influence of quercetin on sperm glycolysis, extracellular pH, ATP content, mitochondrial respiration, and lipid peroxidation. The collective motility of untreated cells is decreased to about 40% of the original motility during two hours of incubation. During this time, the rate of glycolysis is constant, respiration rate is increasing, there is no change in ATP content, the rate of lipid peroxidation is very slow, and the extracellular pH became very acidic (pH 5.5). It is concluded that motility is decreased due to this acidification. This acidification is prevented to some extent by quercetin, which indirectly inhibits glycolysis. Quercetin inhibits motility due to the inhibition of the plasma membrane calcium pump, as we showed previously (Breitbart et al., J Biol Chem 260:11548–11553, 1985). The motility of untreated cells is arrested after 3.5 hr of incubation, whereas quercetin‐treated cells show high motility, which continues for additional 2–3 hr. After 3.5 hr, the control cells show no glycolytic activity, ATP content and respiration rates are decreased, and rate of lipid peroxidation is highly increased. At this time, quercetin‐treated cells show no glycolytic activity, only a small decrease in ATP content and respiratory rate, and a very low rate of lipid peroxidation. Based on these data it is concluded that sperm motility after 3.5 hr of incubation is dependent mainly on mitochondrial respiration. It is also concluded that lipid peroxidation activity has a major role in loss of sperm motility during time of incubation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-373
Number of pages5
JournalMolecular Reproduction and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1990


  • Flavonoids
  • Lipid peroxidation
  • Mitochondrial respiration


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