Seminal plasma (SP), the non-cellular component of semen, is a heterogeneous composite fluid built by secretions of the testis, the epididymis and the accessory sexual glands. Its composition, despite species-specific anatomical peculiarities, consistently contains inorganic ions, specific hormones, proteins and peptides, including cytokines and enzymes, cholesterol, DNA and RNA—the latter often protected within epididymis- or prostate-derived extracellular vesicles. It is beyond question that the SP participates in diverse aspects of sperm function pre-fertilization events. The SP also interacts with the various compartments of the tubular genital tract, triggering changes in gene function that prepares for an eventual successful pregnancy; thus, it ultimately modulates fertility. Despite these concepts, it is imperative to remember that SP-free spermatozoa (epididymal or washed ejaculated) are still fertile, so this review shall focus on the differences between the in vivo roles of the SP following semen deposition in the female and those regarding additions of SP on spermatozoa handled for artificial reproduction, including cryopreservation, from artificial insemination to in vitro fertilization. This review attempts, including our own results on model animal species, to critically summarize the current knowledge of the reproductive roles played by SP components, particularly in our own species, which is increasingly affected by infertility. The ultimate goal is to reconcile the delicate balance between the SP molecular concentration and their concerted effects after temporal exposure in vivo. We aim to appraise the functions of the SP components, their relevance as diagnostic biomarkers and their value as eventual additives to refine reproductive strategies, including biotechnologies, in livestock models and humans.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited