An in vitro bioassay to assess the potential global toxicity of waters on spermatogenesis: a pilot study

Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021 Jun;28(21):26606-26616. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-12480-1. Epub 2021 Jan 25.


Many toxicants are present in water as a mixture. Male infertility is one of the environmental impacts in developed countries. Using our rat seminiferous tubule culture model, we evaluated the effects of waters of different origins, on several parameters of the seminiferous epithelium. Concentrated culture medium was diluted with the waters to be tested (final concentrations of the tested waters were between 8 and 80%). The integrity of the blood-testis barrier was assessed by the trans-epithelial electric resistance (TEER). The levels of mRNAs specific of Sertoli cells, of cellular junctions, of each population of germ cells, of androgen receptor, of estrogen receptor α, and of aromatase were also studied. We report, here, the results obtained with ten waters, some of them possessing a negative effect on spermatogenesis. The results showed that, according to the tested waters, their effects on the parameters studied might be quite different indicating many different mechanisms of toxicity, including some endocrine-disrupting effects. It has been reported that men with impaired semen parameters have an increased mortality rate suggesting semen quality may provide a fundamental biomarker of overall male health. Hence, we have developed a relevant in vitro bioassay allowing the evaluation of the potential toxicity of different types of waters on male fertility and to assess some aspects of their mechanism of action. In addition to the TEER measure, the number and/or the identity of the studied mRNAs can be largely increased and/or modified, thus enhancing the possibility of using this model as a "warning system."

Keywords: Blood-testis barrier integrity; Endocrine-disrupting effects; Global toxicity; In vitro bioassay; Methods; Spermatogenesis; Water quality.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Blood-Testis Barrier
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Rats
  • Semen Analysis*
  • Sertoli Cells
  • Spermatogenesis*
  • Testis