Zinc and lead concentrations were measured in seminal plasma from fertile donors, infertile men with varicocoele and men undergoing work-ups for in vitro fertilization. Ejaculated spermatozoa from these subjects were incubated in vitro with various metal ions and/or dibromoethane and dibromochloropropane. Mannose receptor expression was correlated with metal and toxicant levels. Sperm distributions of potassium channels were compared with lead ions and calcium channels with zinc ions. Mannose receptor expression by capacitated spermatozoa increased linearly with seminal plasma zinc levels, and correlated inversely with lead levels. Cobalt had no effect on mannose receptor expression, but nickel had a concentration-dependent biphasic effect. Mannose receptor expression was not affected by dibromoethane and dibromochloropropane if the cholesterol content of the sperm membrane was high, but mannose receptor expression was decreased in low cholesterol spermatozoa by exposures below estimated permissive exposure limits. Potassium channels and lead ions co-localized over the entire head of human spermatozoa, while both calcium channels and zinc ions were confined to the equatorial segment of the head. Mannose receptor expression on the external surface of the human sperm plasma membrane is a biomarker for the effects of transition and heavy metals and organic toxicants on sperm fertility potential.
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