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Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 27;6:34182. doi: 10.1038/srep34182.

Reproductive toxicity and gender differences induced by cadmium telluride quantum dots in an invertebrate model organism.

Yan SQ1,2, Xing R1,2, Zhou YF3, Li KL1,2, Su YY3, Qiu JF1,2, Zhang YH1,2, Zhang KQ2,4, He Y3, Lu XP2, Xu SQ1,2.

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School of Biology and Basic Medical Sciences, Medical College, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China.
National Engineering Laboratory for Modern Silk (NESER), Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China.
Institute of Functional Nano &Soft Materials (FUNSOM), Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China.
Research Center of Cooperative Innovation for Functional Organic/Polymer Material Micro/Nanofabrication, Soochow University, Suzhou 215123, China.


Sexual glands are key sites affected by nanotoxicity, but there is no sensitive assay for measuring reproductive toxicity in animals. The aim of this study was to investigate the toxic effects of cadmium telluride quantum dots (CdTe-QDs) on gonads in a model organism, Bombyx mori. After dorsal vein injection of 0.32 nmol of CdTe-QDs per individual, the QDs passed through the outer membranes of gonads via the generation of ROS in the membranes of spermatocysts and ovarioles, as well as internal germ cells, thereby inducing early germ cell death or malformations via complex mechanisms related to apoptosis and autophagy through mitochondrial and lysosomal pathways. Histological observations of the gonads and quantitative analyses of germ cell development showed that the reproductive toxicity was characterized by obvious male sensitivity. Exposure to QDs in the early stage of males had severe adverse effects on the quantity and quality of sperm, which was the main reason for the occurrence of unfertilized eggs. Ala- or Gly-conjugated QDs could reduce the nanotoxicity of CdTe-QDs during germ cell development and fertilization of their offspring. The results demonstrate that males are preferable models for evaluating the reproductive toxicity of QDs in combined in vivo/in vitro investigations.

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