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Protein protects sperm in mice

Older mice without GPX5 are more likely to have offspring with developmental defects

3:30pm, June 29, 2009

The absence of a protein that protects sperm could have disastrous consequences for a male’s mate and his offspring.

A new study by researchers in France shows that a protein called glutathione peroxidase 5, or GPX5, stands guard over sperm and helps prevent oxidative damage to their DNA. Without this protective protein, older mice (and perhaps men) run a higher risk of siring offspring with developmental defects, including some severe enough to lead to miscarriage, the team reports in the July Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Scientists have debated whether to bother measuring DNA damage in male reproductive cells, says R. John Aitken, a reproductive biologist at the University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia. Typically the egg repairs any damage in its fertilization partner, so scientists have been more concerned with what happens in the egg than the sperm.

The new report, which Aitken calls “a landmark study,” confirms that

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