The spermatozoon is a highly specialized cell, whose main function is the transport of the intact male genetic material into the oocyte. During its formation and transit throughout male and female reproductive tracts, sperm cells are internally and externally surrounded by reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are produced from both endogenous and exogenous sources. While low amounts of ROS are known to be necessary for crucial physiological sperm processes, such as acrosome reaction and sperm–oocyte interaction, high levels of those species underlie misbalanced antioxidant-oxidant molecules, generating oxidative stress (OS), which is one of the most damaging factors that affect sperm function and lower male fertility potential. The present work starts by reviewing the different sources of oxidative stress that affect sperm cells, continues by summarizing the detrimental effects of OS on the male germline, and discusses previous studies addressing the consequences of these detrimental effects on natural pregnancy and assisted reproductive techniques effectiveness. The last section is focused on how antioxidants can counteract the effects of ROS and how sperm fertilizing ability may benefit from these agents.
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