Research articles

Aging and male reproductive function: A mitochondrial perspective.

Researching the effects of aging in the male reproductive system is not trivial. Not only are multiple changes at molecular, cellular and endocrine levels involved, but any findings must be discussed with variable individual characteristics, as well as with lifestyle and environmental factors. Age-related changes in the reproductive system include any aspect of reproductive function, from deregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and of local auto/paracrine interactions, to effects on testicular stem cells, defects in testicular architecture and spermatogenesis, or sperm with decreased functionality. Several theories place mitochondria at the hub of cellular events related to aging, namely regarding the accumulation of oxidative damage to cells and tissues, a process in which these organelles play a prominent role, although alternative theories have also emerged. However, oxidative stress is not the only process involved in mitochondrial-related aging; mitochondrial energy metabolism, changes in mitochondrial DNA or in mitochondrial-dependent testosterone production are also important. Crucially, all these issues are likely interdependent. We will review evidence that suggests that mitochondria constitute a common link between aging and fertility loss.