Copper-induced changes in reproductive functions: in vivo and in vitro effects

Physiol Res. 2016;65(1):11-22. doi: 10.33549/physiolres.933063. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


The goal of this study is to summarize the current knowledge on the effects of one of the essential metals, copper (Cu) on the reproductive system. The development of past four decades addressing effects of Cu on reproductive organs is reviewed. The most relevant data obtained from in vivo and in vitro experiments performed on humans and other mammals, including effects of copper nanoparticles (CuNPs) on the reproductive functions are presented. Short term Cu administration has been found to exert deleterious effect on intracellular organelles of rat ovarian cells in vivo. In vitro administration in porcine ovarian granulosa cells releases insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), steroid hormone progesterone (P(4)), and induces expression of peptides related to proliferation and apoptosis. Adverse effect of Cu on male reproductive functions has been indicated by the decrease in spermatozoa parameters such as concentration, viability and motility. Copper nanoparticles are capable of generating oxidative stress in vitro thereby leading to reproductive toxicity. Toxic effect of CuNPs has been evident more in male mice than in females. Even though further investigations are necessary to arrive at a definitive conclusion, Cu notably influences the reproductive functions by interfering with both male and female reproductive systems and also hampers embryo development in dose-dependent manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Copper / administration & dosage*
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metal Nanoparticles / administration & dosage
  • Metal Nanoparticles / toxicity
  • Ovary / drug effects
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Ovary / pathology
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / pathology


  • Copper