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Biol Reprod. 2011 Dec;85(6):1269-78. doi: 10.1095/biolreprod.111.094219. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

Aging results in differential regulation of DNA repair pathways in pachytene spermatocytes in the Brown Norway rat.

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Departments of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, McGill University, Montréal, Quebec, Canada.


The present trend of increasing paternal age is accompanied by concerns for the development of complex multigene diseases (e.g., autism and schizophrenia) in progeny. Recent studies have established strong correlations between male age, increased oxidative stress, decreased sperm quality, and structural aberrations of chromatin and DNA in spermatozoa. We tested the hypothesis that increasing age would result in altered gene expression relating to oxidative stress and DNA damage/repair in germ cells. To test this hypothesis, pachytene spermatocytes and round spermatids were isolated from Brown Norway (BN) rats at 4 (young) and 18 (aged) mo of age. Microarray analysis was used to compare gene expression between the groups. The probe sets with significantly altered expression were linked to DNA damage/repair and oxidative stress in pachytene spermatocytes but not in round spermatids. Further analysis of pachytene spermatocytes demonstrated that genes involved in the base excision repair (BER) and nucleotide excision repair (NER) pathways were specifically altered. Quantitative RT-PCR confirmed that NER genes were upregulated (>1.5-fold), whereas BER genes were downregulated (>1.5-fold). At the protein level the members of the BER pathway were also altered by up to 2.3-fold; levels of NER proteins remained unchanged. Furthermore, there was an increase in 8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG) immunoreactivity in testes from aged males and in the number of spermatozoa positive for 8-oxodG. In conclusion, aging is associated with differential regulation of DNA repair pathways with a decrease in the BER pathway leading to deficient repair of 8-oxo-dG lesions in germ cells and spermatozoa.

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