Sperm selection by the oviduct: perspectives for male fertility and assisted reproductive technologies

Sandra Soto-Heras, Denny Sakkas, David J Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The contribution of sperm to embryogenesis is gaining attention with up to 50% of infertility cases being attributed to a paternal factor. The traditional methods used in assisted reproductive technologies for selecting and assessing sperm quality are mainly based on motility and viability parameters. However, other sperm characteristics, including deoxyribonucleic acid integrity, have major consequences for successful live birth. In natural reproduction, sperm navigate the male and female reproductive tract to reach and fertilize the egg. During transport, sperm encounter many obstacles that dramatically reduce the number arriving at the fertilization site. In humans, the number of sperm is reduced from tens of millions in the ejaculate to hundreds in the Fallopian tube (oviduct). Whether this sperm population has higher fertilization potential is not fully understood, but several studies in animals indicate that many defective sperm do not advance to the site of fertilization. Moreover, the oviduct plays a key role in fertility by modulating sperm transport, viability, and maturation, providing sperm that are ready to fertilize at the appropriate time. Here we present evidence of sperm selection by the oviduct with emphasis on the mechanisms of selection and the sperm characteristics selected. Considering the sperm parameters that are essential for healthy embryonic development, we discuss the use of novel in vitro sperm selection methods that mimic physiological conditions. We propose that insight gained from understanding how the oviduct selects sperm can be translated to assisted reproductive technologies to yield high fertilization, embryonic development, and pregnancy rates.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberioac224
Pages (from-to)538-552
Number of pages15
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number4
Early online dateJan 10 2023
StatePublished - Apr 11 2023


  • assisted reproductive technologies
  • embryonic development
  • fertilization
  • oviduct
  • paternal factor
  • sperm quality
  • sperm selection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine


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