EDC IMPACT: Chemical UV filters can affect human sperm function in a progesterone-like manner

Endocr Connect. 2018 Jan;7(1):16-25. doi: 10.1530/EC-17-0156. Epub 2017 Sep 5.


Human sperm cell function must be precisely regulated to achieve natural fertilization. Progesterone released by the cumulus cells surrounding the egg induces a Ca2+ influx into human sperm cells via the CatSper Ca2+-channel and thereby controls sperm function. Multiple chemical UV filters have been shown to induce a Ca2+ influx through CatSper, thus mimicking the effect of progesterone on Ca2+ signaling. We hypothesized that these UV filters could also mimic the effect of progesterone on sperm function. We examined 29 UV filters allowed in sunscreens in the US and/or EU for their ability to affect acrosome reaction, penetration, hyperactivation and viability in human sperm cells. We found that, similar to progesterone, the UV filters 4-MBC, 3-BC, Meradimate, Octisalate, BCSA, HMS and OD-PABA induced acrosome reaction and 3-BC increased sperm penetration into a viscous medium. The capacity of the UV filters to induce acrosome reaction and increase sperm penetration was positively associated with the ability of the UV filters to induce a Ca2+ influx. None of the UV filters induced significant changes in the proportion of hyperactivated cells. In conclusion, chemical UV filters that mimic the effect of progesterone on Ca2+ signaling in human sperm cells can similarly mimic the effect of progesterone on acrosome reaction and sperm penetration. Human exposure to these chemical UV filters may impair fertility by interfering with sperm function, e.g. through induction of premature acrosome reaction. Further studies are needed to confirm the results in vivo.

Keywords: CatSper; UV filters; endocrine disrupting chemicals; fertility; human sperm; progesterone.