Echinacoside and Cistanche tubulosa (Schenk) R. wight ameliorate bisphenol A-induced testicular and sperm damage in rats through gonad axis regulated steroidogenic enzymes

J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Dec 4;193:321-328. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2016.07.033. Epub 2016 Jul 13.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Male infertility has been increasing over the last decades and being a pressing health problem nowadays. Cistanche tubulosa (CT) is a traditional Chinese medicine used to boost male sexual function. Echinacoside (ECH) is one of the major compounds exist in CT and might be a potential agent to protect testis and sperm injury.

Aim of the study: To investigate the mechanisms behind the possible protective effects of CT and ECH against testicular and sperm toxicity.

Materials and methods: CT was identified by 5.8s gene sequencing. The major compositions (echinacoside and acteoside) of CT were quantified by HPLC method. The adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were exposed to BPA, CT or ECH for 42 consecutive days. The sperm parameters were observed by dark-field microscope; serum hormone levels (FSH, LH and testosterone) were tested by radio immunosorbent; LDH-x activity were evaluated using commercial kits; the expressions of the key steroidogenic enzymes were evaluated by qRT-PCR, heat map, immunofluorescence and western blot.

Results: The CT and ECH treatments against BPA-induced testicular and sperm toxicity showed that CT and ECH have reversed BPA-induced abnormality in sperm characteristics, testicular structure and normalized serum testosterone. This was concomitant with the increased expression of LDH-x as well as the key steroidogenic enzymes including StAR, CYP11A1, 3β-HSD, 17β-HSD and CYP17A1, suggesting that CT and ECH enhanced testosterone biosynthesis.

Conclusions: CT and ECH attenuated poor sperm quality and testicular toxicity in rats through up-regulation steroidogenesis enzymes and ECH is the active compound of CT as a potential natural reproductive agent.

Keywords: Bisphenol A (BPA); Cistanche tubulosa; Echinacoside; Sperm; Testis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzhydryl Compounds / toxicity*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cistanche / chemistry*
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone / blood
  • Glycosides / pharmacology*
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Phenols / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spectrophotometry, Ultraviolet
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Steroids / biosynthesis*
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / pathology
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Benzhydryl Compounds
  • Enzymes
  • Glycosides
  • Phenols
  • Steroids
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • echinacoside
  • bisphenol A