Toxicants, such as herbicides, have been hypothesized to affect sperm parameters. The most common method of exposure to herbicides is through spraying or diet. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of direct exposure of sperm to 1 mg/L of the herbicide Roundup on sperm motility and mitochondrial integrity. Sperm samples from 66 healthy men who were seeking semen analysis were investigated after written informed consent was taken. Semen analysis was performed according to the World Health Organization guidelines (WHO, 2010). Mitochondrial integrity was assessed through mitochondrial staining using a mitochondria-specific dye, which is exclusively incorporated into functionally active mitochondria. A quantity of 1 mg/L of Roundup was found to exert a deleterious effect on sperm's progressive motility, after 1 h of incubation (mean difference between treated and control samples = 11.2%) in comparison with the effect after three hours of incubation (mean difference = 6.33%, p < 0.05), while the relative incorporation of the mitochondrial dye in mitochondria of the mid-piece region of Roundup-treated spermatozoa was significantly reduced compared to relative controls at the first hour of incubation, indicating mitochondrial dysfunction by Roundup. Our results indicate that the direct exposure of semen samples to the active constituent of the herbicide Roundup at the relatively low concentration of 1 mg/L has adverse effects on sperm motility, and this may be related to the observed reduction in mitochondrial staining.
Keywords: Roundup; glyphosate; herbicides; mitochondria; sperm motility.