Zinc supplement ameliorates phthalates-induced reproductive toxicity in male rats

Chemosphere. 2020 May:246:125828. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.125828. Epub 2020 Jan 3.


People are inevitably exposed to phthalates (PEs) ubiquitously existing in environment. Our previous studies, simulating the actual situations of people exposure to PEs, have shown that the sub-chronic exposure to low-doses PEs mixture (MIXPs) impaired reproductive function in male rats. Zinc is an important element in maintaining male reproductive functions. However, it is still unknown whether zinc supplement could mitigate PEs-induced male reproductive toxicity or not with sub-chronic low-dose mixture exposure. This study aimed to explore the effect of zinc supplement on the reproductive toxicity caused by sub-chronic MIXPs exposure (160 mg/(kg•body weight)/d, for 90 days) in male rats, and further to reveal the underlying mechanisms. Testosterone (T), FSH and LH in serum, early toxicity indicators in urine, PIWI proteins (PIWIL1 and PIWIL2) expression in testes and pathological examination were performed for toxicity evaluation. Steroidogenic proteins (17β-HSD, StAR, CYP17A1, P450scc and SRD5A) were measured for mechanisms of exploration. The results indicated that zinc supplement could inhibit the T, LH, FSH level decreases in serum, abolish the effect of 5 early toxicity indicators' levels in urine, restrain the alteration of PIWI proteins expression and improve the constructional injury of testes. These effects might be relevant with the suppressed alteration of the expression of steroidogenic proteins induced by MIXPs in rat testicular cells. This work may offer further insights into reducing health risks of MIXPs exposure.

Keywords: Male reproductive toxicity; Phthalate esters; Steroidogenesis; Zinc supplementation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Phthalic Acids / toxicity*
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Zinc / metabolism*


  • Argonaute Proteins
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • PIWIL1 protein, rat
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Proteins
  • Testosterone
  • phthalic acid
  • Zinc