Background: Several studies demonstrate that cigarette smoking has a negative effect on
the reproductive health of both genders. The mechanisms by which it alters male gonadic function
are not entirely clear. The combustion of cigarette produces a lot of chemical compounds that may
be responsible for the negative impact of cigarette smoke on sperm parameters. In particular, the
effects on semen of nicotine, a substance present in the tobacco plant and the main constituent of
cigarette smoke, have been studied, showing that this alkaloid alters sperm parameters. Recently we
investigated the mechanism by which nicotine damages sperm through the evaluation of the expression
of nicotinic receptors subunits in human spermatozoa.
Conclusion: 8 nAChR subunits found to date in mammals are expressed in human spermatozoa
but, in non-smokers subjects, only α7 subunit is translated. Cigarette smoking may stimulate the
expression of some subunits, not translated in non-smokers. Therefore, the presence in sperm of
other nAChR subunits than α7 could represent a marker for smoking-related sperm damage.