Dibromoacetic acid affects reproductive competence and sperm quality in the male rat

Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1995 Nov;28(1):9-17. doi: 10.1006/faat.1995.1140.


Recently, we demonstrated with short-duration tests that dibromoacetic acid (DBAA), a commonly occurring by-product of water disinfection, alters sperm morphology and motility in the male rat. These results suggested that the effects of DBAA on sperm quality were likely to compromise reproductive competence of the male rat early in subchronic exposure. The present studies were undertaken to investigate the dose response and time course of alterations in fertility and sperm quality. Proven breeder male rats were gavaged daily with 0, 2, 10, 50, or 250 mg DBAA/kg for up to 79 days; interim and terminal measurements of sperm quality and reproductive outcome were made. Because of the known neurotoxicity of the analogue, dichloroacetic acid, both natural breeding and artificial inseminations were evaluated in untreated females to distinguish between possible behavioral and spermatogenic effects. DBAA compromised male fertility during the second treatment week in naturally bred rats dosed with 250 mg/kg. The early antifertility effect appeared to be the result of behavioral changes since females artificially inseminated with sperm collected on Day 9 successfully produced offspring. However, sperm morphology and motility also were rapidly affected by DBAA treatment so that no offspring via natural insemination and only one litter via artificial insemination were produced subsequent to Day 15. Through 31 days, substantial effects on sperm motility, sperm morphology, and epididymal sperm numbers were observed, but there was no demonstrable effect on serum testosterone or sperm production. Because severe toxicity developed in the group given 250 mg/kg, exposure of these animals was prematurely terminated after 42 doses and their recovery was monitored through a 6-month posttreatment period; decreased testis weights and only limited recovery of reproductive performance were observed. Exposure to 50 mg/kg resulted in moderate changes in sperm morphology and motility and moderate decreases in epididymal sperm counts in rats dosed for 31 or 79 days. However, these males remained fertile, litter size was unaffected, and no paternally mediated developmental defects were noted in their offspring. No effects on sperm quality were detected at dosages of 2 or 10 mg/kg. However, compared to controls, naturally bred DBAA-treated rats tended to have fewer inseminations, fewer copulatory plugs, and fewer multiple litters, suggesting that DBAA may have altered mating behavior at dosages as low as 10 mg/kg.

MeSH terms

  • Acetates / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Male
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Sperm Count / drug effects
  • Sperm Head / drug effects
  • Sperm Head / ultrastructure
  • Sperm Motility / drug effects
  • Spermatogenesis / drug effects
  • Spermatozoa / drug effects*
  • Spermatozoa / ultrastructure
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Acetates
  • Testosterone
  • dibromoacetic acid