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Andrology. 2018 Jan;6(1):236-246. doi: 10.1111/andr.12426. Epub 2017 Oct 3.

Carnitine partially improves oxidative stress, acrosome integrity, and reproductive competence in doxorubicin-treated rats.

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Laboratory of Developmental Biology, Department of Morphology and Genetics, Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP), Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Doxorubicin has been largely used in anticancer therapy in adults, adolescents, and children. The efficacy of l-carnitine as an antioxidant substance has been confirmed both in humans and rats. Carnitine, present in testis and epididymis, is involved in sperm maturation. It is also effective in infertility treatment. As a continuation of a previous study, we evaluated whether some spermatic qualitative parameters, DNA integrity, chromatin structure, and fertility status, could be ameliorated by the carnitine treatment in adult rats, which were subsequently exposed to doxorubicin at pre-puberty. Pre-pubertal male rats were distributed into four groups: Sham Control; Doxorubicin; l-carnitine; l-carnitine + Doxorubicin (l-carnitine injected 1 h before doxorubicin). At 100 days of age, all groups were reassigned into two sets: One set was submitted to the evaluation of sperm motility, acrosome integrity, mitochondrial activity, sperm chromatin structure analysis (SCSA), and evaluation of the oxidative stress. The other set of rats was destined to the evaluation of reproductive competence. The percentage of spermatozoa with intact acrosome integrity was higher in the Carnitine+Doxorubicin group when compared with the Doxorubicin group. However, sperm motility and mitochondrial activity were not improved by carnitine pre-treatment. Both values of malondialdehyde and nitrite (indirect measurement of nitric oxide) concentrations were statistically higher in the only doxorubicin-treated group when compared to the Carnitine + Doxorubicin group. Fertility index and implantation rate were lower in Doxorubicin group, when compared to Carnitine + Doxorubicin group. Moreover, the percentage of spermatozoa with damaged DNA was higher in the Doxorubicin-treated group when compared to the Carnitine+Doxorubicin group. l-carnitine, when administered before doxorubicin, partially preserved the acrosome integrity, an important feature related to sperm fertilization ability that positively correlated with the reproductive competence and sperm DNA integrity at adulthood. In conclusion, l-carnitine attenuated the long-term alterations caused by doxorubicin in the germ cells and improved male reproductive capacity in adulthood.


carnitine; doxorubicin; sperm DNA and fertility

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