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.
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