Correlation of phthalate exposures with semen quality

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Phthalates are widely used man-made chemical released in the environment and human exposure is mainly through diet. As the phthalate plasticizers are not covalently bound to PVC, they can leach, migrate or evaporate into the environment and as a result have become ubiquitously contaminants. The present study investigates the correlation, if any, between the phthalate esters (DEP, DEHP, DBP, DMP, DOP) and sperm mitochondrial status, ROS, LPO, SCSA, and sperm quality. The study was conducted in the urban/rural population of Lucknow visiting Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, CSMMU, Lucknow. Semen analysis was performed according to the WHO guidelines while phthalate analysis by HPLC and LPO by spectrophotometer and the sperm mitochondrial status, ROS, SCSA using flow cytometry. The questionnaire data showed no significant difference in the demographic characteristics among the groups. In general, urban population was found to have statistically significant higher levels of phthalate esters than the rural. Further, infertile men showed statistically significant (p < 0.05) higher levels of pollutants in the semen than fertile men. A negative correlation between semen phthalate level viz DEHP and sperm quality and positive association with depolarized mitochondria, elevation in ROS production and LPO, DNA fragmentation was established. The findings are suggestive that phthalates might be one among the contributing factors associated with the deterioration in semen quality and these adverse effects might be ROS, LPO and mitochondrial dysfunction mediated.

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