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Journal Article

Assessment of Environmental Factors Affecting Male Fertility

R. L. Dixon, R. J. Sherins and I. P. Lee
Environmental Health Perspectives
Vol. 30 (Jun., 1979), pp. 53-68
DOI: 10.2307/3429102
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3429102
Page Count: 16
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Assessment of Environmental Factors Affecting Male Fertility
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Abstract

Exposure to drinking water containing as much as 500 ppm aluminum chloride for periods of 30, 60, and 90 days had no apparent effect on male reproductive processes. In an attempt to correlate enzyme activity with particular spermatogenic cell types, postnatal development of testicular enzymes was studied. Eight enzymes were selected: hyaluronidase (H), lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme-X (LDH-X), dehydrogenases of sorbitol (SDH), α-glycerophosphate (GPDH), glucose-6-phosphate (G6PDH), malate (MDH), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate (G3PDH), and isocitrate (ICDH). Enzyme specific activities in testicular homogenates were determined. Two types of enzyme developmental patterns were observed. One was represented by H, LDH-X, SDH, and GPDH; and the other by G6PDH, MDH, G3PDH, and ICDH. The former was characterized by a change in enzyme activities from low in newborn to high in adult while in the latter this pattern was reversed. The two complementary enzyme systems crossed each other at puberty. Prior to puberty, only spermatogonial cells are present; sperm differentiation initiated at puberty adds spermatocytes and spermatids to the testicular cell population. Male rats were exposed to borax in their diet for periods of 30 and 60 days. Concentrations of boron were 0, 500, 1000, and 2000 ppm. At the end of each experimental period, the specific activities of the selected enzymes were determined in the testis and prostate. Correlations of enzyme activity with testicular histology and androgen activities of the male accessory organs were sought. In addition, plasma FSH, LH, and testosterone levels were measured to assess pituitary-testicular interaction. Plasma and testicular boron concentrations were determined and a minimum boron concentration which induced germinal aplasia and male infertility was estimated. In both 30 and 60 day feeding studies, male rats receiving 500 ppm failed to demonstrate any significant adverse effects. In contrast, male rats receiving 100 and 2000 ppm boron displayed a significant loss of germinal elements, although most of the Leydig and Sertoli cells appeared normal. Testicular atrophy was associated with a decrease in seminiferous tubular diameter and a marked reduction of spermatocytes and spermatogenic cells. These morphologic alterations were associated with a concomitant reduction of H, SDH, and LDH-X specific activities. In contrast, the specific activities of G3PDH and MDH were significantly elevated above control. The increase in these enzyme activities can be attributed to the relative enrichment of spermatogonial cells during the loss of spermatocytes and spermiogenic cells. Boron-induced male germinal aplasia was also associated with significantly elevated plasma FSH while plasma LH and testosterone levels were not significantly altered. Plasma testosterone levels were unaltered. Male fertility studies demonstrated that at the 500 ppm boron level, fertility was unaffected. However, at 1000 and 2000 ppm boron, male fertility was significantly reduced. Most effects were reversible within 5 weeks. However, the male group receiving 2000 ppm boron for 60 days remained sterile. There was no dose-related decrease in litter size or fetal death in utero. Therefore, the boron-induced infertility was apparently not due to a dominant lethal effect but rather to germinal aplasia. Boron appears toxic to spermatogenic cells at testicular concentrations of 6-8 ppm.

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