Diazinon alters sperm chromatin structure in mice by phosphorylating nuclear protamines

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Organophosphorus (OP) pesticides, widely used in agriculture and pest control, are associated with male reproductive effects, including sperm chromatin alterations, but the mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown. The main toxic action of OP is related to phosphorylation of proteins. Chemical alterations in sperm nuclear proteins (protamines), which pack DNA during the last steps of spermatogenesis, contribute to male reproductive toxicity. Therefore, in the present study, we tested the ability of diazinon (DZN), an OP compound, to alter sperm chromatin by phosphorylating nuclear protamines. Mice were injected with a single dose of DZN (8.12 mg/kg, i.p.), and killed 8 and 15 days after treatment. Quality of sperm from epididymis and vas deferens was evaluated through standard methods and chromatin condensation by flow cytometry (DNA Fragmented Index parameters: DFI and DFI%) and fluorescence microscopy using chromomycin-A3 (CMA3). Increases in DFI (15%), DFI% (4.5-fold), and CMA3 (2-fold) were observed only at 8 days post-treatment, indicating an alteration in sperm chromatin condensation and DNA damage during late spermatid differentiation. In addition, an increase of phosphorous content (approximately 50%) in protamines, especially in the phosphoserine content (approximately 73%), was found at 8 days post-treatment. Sperm viability, motility, and morphology showed significant alterations at this time. These data strongly suggest that spermatozoa exposed during the late steps of maturation were the targets of DZN exposure. The correlation observed between the phosphorous content in nuclear protamines with DFI%, DFI, and CMA3 provides evidence that phosphorylation of nuclear protamines is involved in the OP effects on sperm chromatin.

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