Sperm deoxyribonucleic acid fragmentation: predictors, fertility outcomes, and assays among infertile males

Julie S. Rios, R. Matthew Coward, Karl R. Hansen, Kurt T. Barnhart, Marcelle I. Cedars, Richard S. Legro, Michael P. Diamond, Stephen A. Krawetz, Rebecca Usadi, Valerie L. Baker, Fangbai Sun, Robert Wild, James F. Smith, Nanette Santoro, Heping Zhang, Anne Z. Steiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the factors associated with increased deoxyribonucleic acid fragmentation index (DFI), evaluate the pregnancy outcomes of men with increased DFI, and compare three independent DFI assays. Design: Secondary analysis. Setting: Nine US-based fertility centers. Patient(s): Infertile men (N = 147) with sperm concentration ≤15 × 106/mL, motility ≤40%, or normal morphology ≤4% were enrolled. The female partners were ovulatory, ≤40 years old, and had documented tubal patency. Intervention(s): At a baseline visit, the men provided a semen sample. The couples attempted conception without assistance for 3 months and with ovarian stimulation and intrauterine insemination in the subsequent 3 months. Main Outcome Measure(s): The DFI was analyzed using the sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA) with increased DFI defined as >30%. The predictors of increased DFI were determined by a multivariable linear regression model. The pregnancy outcomes were compared using the χ2 test. The independent DFI assays (SCSA, deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling, and Comet) were compared with Pearson and Spearman correlations. Result(s): The 19% of men with increased DFI were older (36.0 vs. 33.0 years) and had lower total sperm motility (38.2% ± 20.5% vs. 45.2% ± 15.6%). Increased male age was found to be a significant predictor of DFI (0.75, 95% confidence interval [0.06, 1.45]). Increased DFI was not associated with conception or live birth. There was a modest correlation of the deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling assay with the SCSA (r = 0.34) and Comet assay (r = 0.19). Conclusion(s): Older age was associated with increased DFI among infertile men. The DFI assays were only weakly correlated, indicating a standard definition of DFI is needed to truly interrogate how sperm deoxyribonucleic acid fragmentation impacts male fertility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-288
Number of pages7
JournalF and S Reports
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Embryology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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