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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53949. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053949. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

The interactive effects of cytoskeleton disruption and mitochondria dysfunction lead to reproductive toxicity induced by microcystin-LR.

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Fisheries College, Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China.


The worldwide occurrence of cyanobacterial blooms evokes profound concerns. The presence of microcystins (MCs) in waters and aquatic food increases the risk to human health. Some recent studies have suggested that the gonad is the second most important target organ of MCs, however, the potential toxicity mechanisms are still unclear. For a better understanding of reproductive toxicity of MCs on animals, we conducted the present experimental investigation. Male rats were intraperitoneally injected with MC-LR for 50 d with the doses of 1 and 10 µg/kg body weight per day. After prolonged exposure to MC-LR, the testes index significantly decreased in 10 µg/kg group. Light microscope observation indicated that the space between the seminiferous tubules was increased. Ultrastructural observation showed some histopathological characteristics, including cytoplasmic shrinkage, cell membrane blebbing, swollen mitochondria and deformed nucleus. Using Q-PCR methods, the transcriptional levels of some cytoskeletal and mitochondrial genes were determined. MC-LR exposure affected the homeostasis of the expression of cytoskeletal genes, causing possible dysfunction of cytoskeleton assembly. In MC-LR treatments, all the 8 mitochondrial genes related with oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) significantly increased. The reactive oxygen species (ROS) level significantly increased in 10 µg/kg group. The mitochondria swelling and DNA damage were also determined in 10 µg/kg group. Hormone levels of testis significantly changed. The present study verified that both cytoskeleton disruption possibly due to cytoskeletal reorganization or depolymerization and mitochondria dysfunction interact with each other through inducing of reactive oxygen species and oxidative phosphorylation, and jointly result in testis impairment after exposure to MC-LR.

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