Exposure to atrazine during puberty reduces sperm viability, increases weight gain and alters the expression of key metabolic genes in the liver of male mice

Reprod Fertil Dev. 2019 Apr;31(5):920-931. doi: 10.1071/RD18505.


Atrazine (ATZ) is one of the most widely used herbicides worldwide and is a common contaminant in human drinking water. It disrupts metabolic pathways in plants, and has metabolic and reproductive effects in vertebrates, including humans. Few studies have investigated the effects of exposure to low doses of ATZ, especially during sexual development in males. In this study, we exposed C57BL/6J male mice from weaning for 8 weeks to drinking water containing 0.5mgkg-1 bodyweight (BW) day-1 ATZ, the 'no observed effect' level used by the Australian government, or a 10-fold higher dose (5mgkg-1 BW day-1). Mice treated with the low dose of ATZ showed increased total and cumulative weight gain. At 12 weeks of age, there was a significant increase in the percentage of dead spermatozoa in both ATZ-exposed groups, as well as decreased epididymal sperm motility in the low-dose ATZ group. Significant changes in testis and liver gene expression were also observed following ATZ exposure. These data demonstrate that a low dose of ATZ can perturb metabolic and reproductive characteristics in male mice. A chronic reduction in sperm quality and increased weight gain could have negative consequences on the reproductive capacity of males, and further studies should consider the effects of long-term ATZ exposure on male reproductive health.

MeSH terms

  • Acrosome / drug effects
  • Acrosome / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Atrazine / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Herbicides / pharmacology*
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Sexual Maturation / drug effects*
  • Sexual Maturation / physiology
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Weight Gain / drug effects*


  • Herbicides
  • Testosterone
  • Atrazine