Original research article| Volume 66, ISSUE 6, P453-457, December 2002

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The effects of levonorgestrel on various sperm functions


      Two doses of 750-μg levonorgestrel at 12 h apart is one of the regimens for emergency contraception. The mechanism of action of this regimen is not fully known. We investigated whether levonorgestrel influences sperm functions and thereby, exerts contraceptive activity. The motility, acrosome reaction, zona binding capacity, and oocyte fusion capacity of human spermatozoa treated with 1, 10, and 100 ng/mL levonorgestrel for 3 h were evaluated. Levonorgestrel decreased the curvilinear velocity of the treated spermatozoa in a dose-dependent manner. A significant decrease in straight-line velocity, average path velocity and linearity were also found with 100 ng/mL levonorgestrel treatment. This concentration of levonorgestrel, but not others, also marginally decreased (p = 0.045) the zona binding capacity of the treated spermatozoa. The steroid had no effect on acrosome reaction but had a dose-dependent inhibition on spermatozoa-oocyte fusion. These data show that levonorgestrel affects sperm function only at high concentration and the contribution of these effects to emergency contraception is unlikely to be significant.


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