Chapter 2 - The Role of Cytometry for Male Fertility Assessment in Toxicology


Infertility is nowadays a major concern, affecting approximately 8–12% of the couples and the male factor accounts for about 50% of the cases. Occupational and/or environmental exposure to heavy metals and other pollutants is the main cause of male infertility. Lead, cadmium and chromium are heavy metals widely used in industry and quite persistent in the environment, raising major concerns over the possible effects on the reproductive health of workers and the general population. Sperm DNA integrity is essential for the accurate transmission of paternal genetic information, and normal sperm chromatin structure is important for sperm fertilizing ability. Flow cytometry can be to characterize multiple physical characteristics of the population of spermatozoa in the sperm, including sperm concentration, viability, mitochondrial mass and function, acrosome integrity, capacitation, membrane fluidity, DNA content and status, etc. This chapter elucidates the role of cytometry in the study of male fertility under toxicological insult by pollutants such as chromium, cadmium and lead. Some representative examples are presented using in vivo studies with rodents. In addition, complementary techniques to cytometry and future perspectives will be mentioned in an interdisciplinary point of view to gain knowledge on this subject.


Maria de Lourdes Pereira, Helena Oliveira, Henrique M.A.C. Fonseca, Fernando Garcia e Costa and Conceição Santos

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