In utero and lactational exposure of male rats to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin. 3. Effects on spermatogenesis and reproductive capability

Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1992 May;114(1):118-26. doi: 10.1016/0041-008x(92)90103-y.


When administered in overtly toxic doses to postweanling male rats, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) produces adverse effects on the reproductive system including a decrease in spermatogenesis. Because the male reproductive system may be particularly susceptible to toxic insult during the perinatal period, the effects of in utero and lactational TCDD exposure on its development were examined. Male rats born to dams given TCDD (0.064, 0.16, 0.40, or 1.0 micrograms/kg, po) or vehicle on Day 15 of gestation were evaluated at various stages of development; effects on spermatogenesis and male reproductive capability are reported herein. Testis, epididymis, and cauda epididymis weights were decreased in a dose-related fashion at 32, 49, 63, and 120 days of age, that is, when males were at the juvenile, pubertal, postpubertal, and mature stages of sexual development, respectively. When measured on Days 49, 63, and 120, daily sperm production by the testis was reduced at the highest maternal TCDD dose to 57-74% of the control rate. Cauda epididymal sperm reserves in 63- and 120-day-old males were decreased to as low as 25 and 44%, respectively, of control values, although the motility and morphology of these sperm appeared to be unaffected. The magnitude of the effects described above tended to lessen with time; nevertheless, the decreases in epididymis and cauda epididymis weights, daily sperm production, and cauda epididymal sperm number were statistically significant at the lowest maternal dose tested (0.064 micrograms TCDD/kg) on Day 120 and at most earlier times. To determine if in utero and lactational TCDD exposure also affects male reproductive capability, rats were mated at approximately 70 and 120 days of age with control females. Little if any effect on fertility was seen, and the survival and growth of offspring was unaffected. These results are not inconsistent with the pronounced reductions in daily sperm production and cauda epididymal sperm reserves caused by perinatal TCDD exposure since rats produce and ejaculate far more sperm than are required for normal fertility. The TCDD-induced reduction in spermatogenesis cannot be accounted for by concurrent effects on plasma follicle-stimulating hormone or androgen concentrations or by undernutrition. To investigate the nature of the spermatogenic lesion, leptotene spermatocyte to Sertoli cell ratios were determined.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Animals
  • Breast Feeding
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Epididymis / drug effects
  • Female
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Organ Size
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Rats
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Sperm Count
  • Sperm Motility
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / pathology


  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone