Antioxidants and semen quality
Avian spermatozoa are characterised by high proportions of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which is associated with increased susceptibility to reactive oxygen species (ROS) and lipid peroxidation.
Recent advances in avian reproduction have focused on the potential of ROS as one of the prime mediators of infertility. Although ROS are involved in many physiological functions of spermatozoa, their excessive production may result in oxidative stress.
The production of ROS is enhanced during unfavourable environmental and stressful conditions, and an effective scavenging system is essential to counter the production of ROS. Antioxidants are compounds that suppress the formation of ROS. Enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants build a powerful antioxidant system in avian semen which is able to protect it against ROS and lipid peroxidation.
The balance between ROS and antioxidants in avian semen is a fundamental determinant of membrane integrity, sperm viability and fertilising ability. A regulating role of ROS in sperm function in mammalian sperm along with their counteract mechanisms have been extensively studied; but their role for avian species reproduction remains to be elucidated. Various antioxidants belonging both to enzymatic and non-enzymatic groups can counter oxidative stress. Hence the rationale of using antioxidants is advocated.
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