Male infertility can be caused by a taurine deficiency

In a study published in The FEBS Journal, researchers from the University of Tsukuba and Cornell University report that they have discovered a cell volume regulator in sperm cells which helps maintain their shape and fertility. The study suggested that a deficiency in taurine, a vital amino acid which is found abundantly in the male reproductive system, can deform sperm and may lead to male infertility.

Taurine is an essential amino acid often found in the heart, blood, retina, and platelets. It is known for aiding various bodily functions and helps in maintaining our overall health. It can even regulate fluids and minerals in the blood that support the function of eyesight, nerves, muscles, and heart. Taurine can be biosynthesized by the male reproductive organ.

Taurine’s role in male fertility and reproductive health

The study involved male rats of different ages, which were offered water with taurine and ?-alanine, a taurine transport inhibitor. The effect of taurine is then investigated and observed through testis marker enzymes, sperm quality and reproductive hormones.

Atsushi Asano, a corresponding author of the research, explained that cells have sensor mechanisms to compensate for changes in their osmotic environment. He said, “Without these compensatory sensors, cells would experience excessive volume changes leading to a ruptured membrane or other morphological problems. This type of sensor is fairly common in cells, but we were surprised to find one that plays a significant role in the function of sperm cells.”

Male mice that lack cysteine dioxygenase (CDO) were previously found to be infertile. On the other hand, male mice that have an abundant volume of CDO appeared to be reproductively healthy.

CDO is a protein known to produce taurine and plays a key role in osmosis. Although there has been a long-standing debate on the role of CDO and taurine in fertilization, the study suggested that male mice who were tagged as infertile has less taurine in their sperm compared to others.

Moreover, the researchers also confirmed that infertile male mice were found to have lower levels of CDO that ruptured the shape and overall health of sperm cells. According to Ai Ushiyama, a co-author of the study, “The absorption process looks to be an important survival strategy for sperm during fertilization since mature sperm cannot produce proteins on their own. The findings convinced us that taurine was essential to the fertilization process, but we still had to figure out what exactly taurine was doing in sperm cells.”

It was also discovered that sperm cells in CDO-deficient mice were nearly twice as likely to have a deformed tail when placed in the environment of a uterus. Meanwhile, the defect strikingly disappeared when the sperm were supplemented with extra doses of taurine.

The researchers concluded that CDO, a critical enzyme in taurine synthesis, is a pivotal mechanism in male fertility. The level of taurine production in a sperm cell is integral in helping it survive osmosis while inside the uterus.

Sources of taurine

The findings suggest that consuming more taurine-rich foods and taking taurine supplements may help increase the daily recommended intake.

The highest amount of taurine can be found on shellfish, specifically mussels, scallops and clams. There’s also a significant amount of taurine in chicken liver, salami, bologna, veal, and lamb.

Cooking has been proven to have no adverse effect on the level of taurine in food.

Unhealthy habits such as smoking and alcohol drinking can also aid in male infertility. An overall healthy diet coupled with regular exercise can do wonders for the reproductive health. Learn more at

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