Mucuna pruriens and its major constituent L-DOPA recover spermatogenic loss by combating ROS, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and apoptosis

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54655. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0054655. Epub 2013 Jan 22.


Background: The Ayurvedic medicinal system claims Mucuna pruriens (MP) to possess pro-male fertility, aphrodisiac and adaptogenic properties. Some scientific evidence also supports its pro-male fertility properties; however, the mechanism of its action is not yet clear. The present study aimed at demonstrating spermatogenic restorative efficacy of MP and its major constituent L-DOPA (LD), and finding the possible mechanism of action thereof in a rat model.

Methodology/findings: Ethinyl estradiol (EE) was administered at a rate of 3 mg/kg body weight (BW)/day for a period of 14 days to generate a rat model with compromised spermatogenesis. MP and LD were administered in two separate groups of these animals starting 15(th) day for a period of 56 days, and the results were compared with an auto-recovery (AR) group. Sperm count and motility, testis histo-architecture, level of reactive oxygen species (ROS), mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), apoptosis, peripheral hormone levels and testicular germ cell populations were analysed, in all experimental groups. We observed efficient and quick recovery of spermatogenesis in MP and LD groups in comparison to the auto-recovery group. The treatment regulated ROS level, apoptosis, and mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), recovered the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis and the number of testicular germ cells, ultimately leading to increased sperm count and motility.

Conclusion/significance: M. pruriens efficiently recovers the spermatogenic loss induced due to EE administration. The recovery is mediated by reduction in ROS level, restoration of MMP, regulation of apoptosis and eventual increase in the number of germ cells and regulation of apoptosis. The present study simplified the complexity of mechanism involved and provided meaningful insights into MP/LD mediated correction of spermatogenic impairment caused by estrogens exposure. This is the first study demonstrating that L-DOPA largely accounts for pro-spermatogenic properties of M. pruriens. The manuscript bears CDRI communication number 8374.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Ethinyl Estradiol / toxicity
  • Fertility Agents, Male / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Male / chemically induced
  • Infertility, Male / drug therapy*
  • Infertility, Male / physiopathology*
  • Levodopa / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Ayurvedic
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Mucuna / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / cytology
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / growth & development


  • Fertility Agents, Male
  • Plant Extracts
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Ethinyl Estradiol
  • Levodopa

Grant support

This study was supported by financial grant from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.