Maternal exposure to a mixture of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) affects testis histology, epididymal sperm count and induces sperm DNA fragmentation in mice

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Abstract

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are widespread throughout the environment and some are suspected to induce reproductive toxicity. As animals and humans are exposed to complex mixtures of POPs, it is reasonable to assess how such mixtures could interact with the reproductive system. Our aim is to investigate how maternal exposure to a mixture of 29 different persistent organic pollutants, formulated to mimic the relative POP levels in the food basket of the Scandinavian population, could alter reproductive endpoints. Female mice were exposed via feed from weaning, during pregnancy and lactation in 3 exposure groups (control (C), low (L) and high (H)). Testicular morphometric endpoints, epididymal sperm concentration and sperm DNA integrity were assessed in adult male offspring. We found that the number of tubules, proportion of tubule compartments and epididymal sperm concentration significantly decreased in both POP exposed groups. Epididymal sperm from both POP exposed groups showed increased DNA fragmentation. It is concluded that maternal exposure to a defined POP mixture relevant to human exposure can affect testicular development, sperm production and sperm chromatin integrity.

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