Effects of icariin on reproductive functions in male rats

Molecules. 2014 Jul 3;19(7):9502-14. doi: 10.3390/molecules19079502.


The present study investigated the effects and potential mechanism(s) of action of icariin on the reproductive functions of male rats. Adult rats were treated orally with icariin at doses of 0 (control), 50, 100, or 200 mg/kg body weight for 35 consecutive days. The results show that icariin had virtually no effect on the body weight or organ coefficients of the testes or epididymides. However, 100 mg/kg icariin significantly increased epididymal sperm counts. In addition, 50 and 100 mg/kg icariin significantly increased testosterone levels. Real-time PCR suggests icariin may be involved in testosterone production via mRNA expression regulation of genes such as peripheral type benzodiazepine receptor (PBR) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR). Furthermore, 100 mg/kg icariin treatment also affected follicle stimulating hormone receptor (FSHR) and claudin-11 mRNA expression in Sertoli cells. Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were measured in the testes; 50 and 100 mg/kg icariin treatment improved antioxidative capacity, while 200 mg/kg icariin treatment upregulated oxidative stress. These results collectively suggest that icariin within a certain dose range is beneficial to male reproductive functions; meanwhile, higher doses of icariin may damage reproductive functions by increasing oxidative stress in the testes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Fertility Agents, Male / pharmacology*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Male
  • Malondialdehyde / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, LH / genetics
  • Receptors, LH / metabolism
  • Sperm Count
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Testis / cytology
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Fertility Agents, Male
  • Flavonoids
  • Receptors, LH
  • Testosterone
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • icariin