Toxicants and human sperm chromatin integrity.

  • Date de publication : 2009-12-09


Delbès G, Hales BF, Robaire B. Toxicants and human sperm chromatin integrity. Mol. Hum. Reprod. 2010;16:14-22. doi: 10.1093/molehr/gap087. PubMed PMID: 19812089.

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Mot(s) Clé(s)

animals chromatin dna damage drug-related side effects and adverse reactions environmental pollutants humans infertility, male male models, biological spermatozoa


The integrity of the paternal genome is essential as the spermatozoon can bring genetic damage into the oocyte at fertilization and contribute to the development of abnormal pregnancy outcome. During the past two decades, many assays have been developed to measure sperm DNA strand breaks, chromatin structure and compaction and assess the proteins associated with the DNA, as well as epigenetic modifications. Using these assays, it has been shown that exposure to physical agents or chemicals, including therapeutic drugs and environmental toxicants, can affect the integrity of sperm chromatin, inducing structural, genetic and/or epigenetic abnormalities. The mechanisms by which such damage is triggered are still largely unresolved and the susceptibility of each individual will depend on their genetic background, lifestyle and exposure to various insults. Depending on the nature of the chemicals, they may directly target the DNA, induce an oxidative stress, or modify the epigenetic elements. The significance of measuring the sperm chromatin integrity comes from the fact that this end-point correlates well with the low IVF and ICSI outcomes, and idiopathic infertility. Nevertheless, it is hard to establish a direct link between the paternal sperm chromatin integrity and the health of the future generations. Thus, it seems essential to undertake studies that will resolve the impact of chemical and environmental factors on chromatin structure and epigenetic components of human spermatozoa and to elucidate what sperm nuclear end-points are predictors of the quality of progeny outcome.