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Role of autophagy in di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)-induced apoptosis in mouse Leydig cells

Sun, Yingyin, Shen, Jingcao, Zeng, Lin, Yang, Dan, Shao, Shuxin, Wang, Jinglei, Wei, Jie, Xiong, Junping, Chen, Jiaxiang
Environmental pollution 2018 v.243 pp. 563-572
Leydig cells, acetylcysteine, apoptosis, atrophy, autophagy, blood serum, caspase-3, caspase-8, cell viability, cytotoxicity, epididymis, epithelium, industry, males, mice, oxidative stress, phthalates, plasticizers, proteins, spermatozoa, testosterone
Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) has been widely used as a plasticizer in industry. DEHP can cause testicular atrophy, yet the exact mechanism remains unclear. In this study, male mice were intragastrically (i.g.) administered with 0, 100, 200 or 400 mg DEHP/kg/day for 21 days. We found that DEHP caused disintegration of the germinal epithelium and decreased sperm density in the epididymis. Furthermore, there was a significant increase in the levels of cleaved Caspase-8, cleaved Caspase-3 and Bax proteins and a decrease in Bcl2 protein. The results indicated that DEHP could induce apoptosis of the testis tissue. Meanwhile, DEHP significantly induced autophagy in the testis tissues with increases in LC3-II, Atg5 and Beclin-1 proteins. The serum testosterone concentration decreased in the DEHP-treated group, implying that DEHP might lead to Leydig cell damage. Furthermore, oxidative stress was induced by DEHP in the testis. To further investigate the potential mechanism, mouse TM3 Leydig cells were treated with 0–80 μM DEHP for 48 h. DEHP significantly inhibited cell viability and induced cell apoptosis. Oxidative stress was involved in DEHP-induced apoptosis as N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), an inhibitor of oxidative stress, could rescue the inhibition of cell viability and induction of apoptosis by DEHP. Similar to the in vivo findings, DEHP could also induce cell autophagy. However, inhibition of autophagy by 3-Methyladenine (3-MA) significantly increased cell viability and inhibited apoptosis. Taken together, oxidative stress was involved in DEHP-induced apoptosis and autophagy of mouse TM3 Leydig cells, and autophagy might play a cytotoxic role in DEHP-induced cell apoptosis.