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Endocrinology. 2007 Aug;148(8):3941-9. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

Permethrin may disrupt testosterone biosynthesis via mitochondrial membrane damage of Leydig cells in adult male mouse.

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Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, 65 Tsurumai-cho, Showa-ku, Nagoya 466-8550, Japan.


Permethrin, a popular synthetic pyrethroid insecticide used to control noxious insects in agriculture, forestry, households, horticulture, and public health throughout the world, poses risks of environmental exposure. Here we evaluate the reproductive toxicity of cis-permethrin in adult male ICR mice that were orally administered cis-permethrin (0, 35, or 70 mg/kg d) for 6 wk. Caudal epididymal sperm count and sperm motility in the treated groups were statistically reduced in a dose-dependent manner. Testicular testosterone production and plasma testosterone concentration were significantly and dose-dependently decreased with an increase in LH, and a significant regression was observed between testosterone levels and cis-permethrin residues in individual mice testes after exposure. However, no significant changes were observed in body weight, reproductive organ absolute and relative weights, sperm morphology, and plasma FSH concentration after cis-permethrin treatment. Moreover, cis-permethrin exposure significantly diminished the testicular mitochondrial mRNA expression levels of peripheral benzodiazepine receptor (PBR), steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), and cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage (P450scc) and enzyme and protein expression levels of StAR and P450scc. At the electron microscopic level, mitochondrial membrane damage was found in Leydig cells of the exposed mouse testis. Our results suggest that the insecticide permethrin may cause mitochondrial membrane impairment in Leydig cells and disrupt testosterone biosynthesis by diminishing the delivery of cholesterol into the mitochondria and decreasing the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone in the cells, thus reducing subsequent testosterone production.

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