Effect of environmental contamination on female and male gametes-A lesson from bovines

Zvi Roth*, Alisa Komsky-Elbaz, Dorit Kalo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) and foodborne contaminants are environmental pollutants that are considered reproductive toxicants due to their deleterious effects on female and male gametes. Among the EDCs, the phthalate plasticizers are of growing concern. In-vivo and in-vitro models indicate that the oocyte is highly sensitive to phthalates. This review summarizes the effects of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and its major metabolite mono(2-ethyhexyl) phthalate (MEHP) on the oocyte. MEHP reduces the proportion of oocytes that fertilize, cleave and develop to the blastocyst stage. This is associated with negative effects on meiotic progression, and disruption of cortical granules, endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondrial reorganization. MEHP alters mitochondrial membrane polarity, increases reactive oxygen species levels and induces alterations in genes associated with oxidative phosphorylation. A carryover effect from the oocyte to the blastocyst is manifested by alterations in the transcriptomic profile of blastocysts developed from MEHP-treated oocytes. Among foodborne contaminants, the pesticide atrazine (ATZ) and the mycotoxin aflatoxin B1 (AFB1) are of high concern. The potential hazards associated with exposure of spermatozoa to these contaminants and their carryover effect to the blastocyst are described. AFB1 and ATZ reduce spermatozoa's viability, as reflected by a high proportion of cells with damaged plasma membrane; induce acrosome reaction, expressed as damage to the acrosomal membrane; and interfere with mitochondrial function, characterized by hyperpolarization of the membrane. ATZ and AFB1-treated spermatozoa show a high proportion of cells with fragmented DNA. Exposure of spermatozoa to AFB1 and ATZ reduces fertilization and cleavage rates, but not that of blastocyst formation. However, fertilization with AFB1-or ATZ-treated spermatozoa impairs transcript expression in the formed blastocysts, implying a carryover effect. Taken together, the review indicates the risk of exposing farm animals to environmental contaminants, and their deleterious effects on female and male gametes and the developing embryo.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number041
JournalAnimal Reproduction
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Colegio Brasileiro de Reproducao Animal.


  • Bovine
  • Embryonic development
  • Environmental contaminant
  • Oocyte
  • Spermatozoa


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