Accumulation of dietary methylmercury in the testes of the adult brown norway rat: Impaired testicular and epididymal function

Andrew S. Friedmann, Haolin Chen, Lorrine D. Rabuck, Barry R. Zirkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The widespread consumption of fish containing elevated concentrations of methylmercury has prompted concern over the health effects of such a diet. Previous studies with rodents have indicated that exposure to dietary mercury (Hg) impairs male reproductive health. However, adverse effects were observed following doses in the range of milligrams per kilogram of body weight, whereas typical human consumption in the United States is in the range of micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This study examined the effects of dietary Hg on male rats using levels of the metal that are more similar to those typically consumed by humans. For 19 weeks, adult male Brown Norway rats were administered methylmercury twice weekly at 0.8, 8.0, or 80 μg/kg. Intratesticular testosterone levels in the high-dose group were reduced by 44%, suggesting that steroidogenesis in these animals was dramatically impaired. Although sperm production was not significantly affected, numbers of sperm in the cauda epididymides of the high-dose group were reduced by 17%. Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between fertility and testicular Hg content. These results raise the possibility that exposure to Hg at levels consumed by humans may result in steroidogenic impairment, reduced sperm counts, and fertility problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)867-871
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - 1998

Keywords

  • Methylmercury
  • Rat
  • Reproduction
  • Testes
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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