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Sci Rep. 2012;2:375. doi: 10.1038/srep00375. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

From father to son: transgenerational effect of tetracycline on sperm viability.

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Department of Biology and Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada , Reno, NV 89557, USA.


The broad-spectrum antibiotic tetracycline is used in animal production, antimicrobial therapy, and for curing arthropods infected with bacterial endosymbionts such as Wolbachia. Tetracycline inhibits mitochondrial translation, and recent evidence indicates that male reproductive traits may be particularly sensitive to this antibiotic. Here, we report the first multi-generation investigation of tetracycline's effects on ejaculate traits. In a study of the pseudoscorpion, Cordylochernes scorpioides, in which siblings were randomly assigned to control and tetracycline treatments across replicate full-sibling families, tetracycline did not affect body size in either sex, female reproduction or sperm number. However, tetracycline-treated males exhibited significantly reduced sperm viability compared to control males, and transmitted this toxic effect of tetracycline on sperm to their untreated sons but not to their F2 grandsons. These results are consistent with tetracycline-induced epigenetic changes in the male germline, and suggest the need for further investigation of transgenerational effects of tetracycline on male reproductive function.

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