HIV-1 viral DNA is present in ejaculated abnormal spermatozoa of seropositive subjects

B. Muciaccia, S. Corallini, E. Vicini, F. Padula, L. Gandini, G. Liuzzi, A. Lenzi, M. Stefanini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Semen is the major vehicle for HIV-1 infection as it contains free and cell-associated virions and infected cells. However, the presence of HIV-1 in spermatozoa has been a matter of debate, since the sperm cell fraction may contain somatic infected cells that jeopardize the attribution of the detected virus to the spermatozoa. METHODS: Spermatozoa from 12 HIV-1 seropositive subjects were purified by multilayered Percoll gradient followed by osmotic shock. Residual presence of non-seminal cells (NCS) in purified spermatozoa, was then evaluated by cytometric and molecular analysis. HIV-1 DNA was revealed by nested PCR and in situ PCR after sperm chromatin decondensation. DNA-fragmented ejaculated spermatozoa in semen of infected subjects were detected by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUDP nick-end labeling (TUNEL) analysis. RESULTS: Purification procedure adopted allowed complete removal of NCS. On purified sperm cells, HIV-1 DNA was detected in 5 out of 12 subjects by nested-PCR. On crude semen of 10 out of 12 subjects, HIV-1 DNA was in situ detected in a small percentage of abnormal spermatozoa with a wide range of structural alterations. TUNEL analysis revealed an increased percentage of DNA-fragmented ejaculated spermatozoa in semen of infected subjects. CONCLUSIONS: We report molecular evidence demonstrating that HIV-1 infected subjects can ejaculate small amounts of HIV-1 DNA-positive abnormal spermatozoa. Their possible role in HIV-1 sexual transmission remains to be clarified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2868-2878
Number of pages11
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


  • Alu-LTR PCR
  • HIV-1 nested PCR
  • In situ PCR
  • Osmotic shock
  • Sperm chromatin decondensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Reproductive Medicine


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