Although very inefficient, sexual transmission of HIV-1 is responsible for more than 80% of infections worldwide. Yet, the presence of HIV in spermatozoa has been a matter of debate. The aim of this study was to evaluate the presence of HIV nucleic acids and the distribution of mannose receptors in sperm cells, and to determine the semen parameters and cytokine levels in ejaculates from HIV-positive patients. The presence of non-seminal cells in purified sperm was revealed by light microscopy, flow cytometry and RT-PCR. HIV nucleic acids were evaluated by nested PCR; the distributions of mannose receptors on the surface of the sperm and cytokine levels in ejaculates were determined by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry respectively. Sperm characteristics were determined by conventional methods. HIV DNA was detected in 69.2% of purified sperm from HIV-positive men; in contrast all purified sperm were negative for HIV RNA. The distribution of mannose receptors and cytokine levels in HIV-1-positive men were similar to uninfected individuals. Using the Principal Component Analysis (PCA) method, it was possible to determine that semen parameters of HIV-positive men exhibit different distributions compared to HIV-negative individuals. Finally, these results indicate that viral DNA is present in purified sperm from HIV-positive men and that HIV infection of spermatozoa could be associated with lower seminal parameters as demonstrated by the PCA method. The similar distribution of mannose receptors between infected and uninfected individuals suggests that sperm cells from infected individuals interact normally with oocytes.
Keywords: Sperm, HIV, sexual transmission, mannose receptor, cytokine
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