Exploring the internal exposome of seminal plasma with semen quality and live birth: A Pilot Study

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Infertility is clinically defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy within 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse and affects 15% of couples worldwide. Therefore, the identification of novel biomarkers that can accurately predict male reproductive health and couples' reproductive success is of major public health significance. The objective of this pilot study is to test whether untargeted metabolomics is capable of discriminating reproductive outcomes and understand associations between the internal exposome of seminal plasma and the reproductive outcomes of semen quality and live birth among ten participants undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) in Springfield, MA. We hypothesize that seminal plasma offers a novel biological matrix by which untargeted metabolomics is able to discern male reproductive status and predict reproductive success. The internal exposome data was acquired using UHPLC-HR-MS on randomized seminal plasma samples at UNC at Chapel Hill. Unsupervised and supervised multivariate analyses were used to visualize the differentiation of phenotypic groups classified by men with normal or low semen quality based on World Health Organization guidelines as well as by successful ART: live birth or no live birth. Over 100 exogenous metabolites, including environmentally relevant metabolites, ingested food components, drugs and medications, and metabolites relevant to microbiome-xenobiotic interaction, were identified and annotated from the seminal plasma samples, through matching against the NC HHEAR hub in-house experimental standard library. Pathway enrichment analysis indicated that fatty acid biosynthesis and metabolism, vitamin A metabolism, and histidine metabolism were associated sperm quality; while pathways involving vitamin A metabolism, C21-steroid hormone biosynthesis and metabolism, arachidonic acid metabolism, and Omega-3 fatty acid metabolism distinguished live birth groups. Taken together, these pilot results suggest that seminal plasma is a novel matrix to study the influence of the internal exposome on reproductive health outcomes. Future research aims to increase the sample size to validate these findings.

Keywords: environmental exposure; Seminal plasma; exposomics; male infertility; metabolomics.