Mercury (Hg) is a heavy metal toxicant, causing several adverse reactions to animals and humans including reproductive dysfunction. The potential protective role of Ziziphus spina-christi leaf extract (ZSCLE) against testicular impairments associated with mercury chloride (HgCl2) exposure in rats was investigated in the current study. Four experimental groups were employed as follows (n = 7): group I served as control, group II was gavaged with ZSCLE (300 mg/kg), group III was administered with HgCl2 (0.4 mg/kg), and group IV was preadministered with ZSCLE 1 h before HgCl2. All groups were treated daily for 28 days. The exposure to HgCl2 caused a marked increase in Hg concentration in the testicular tissue, which was accompanied with a decrease in testis index. A reproductive impairment was recorded following HgCl2 exposure as verified through the decrease in levels of testosterone, luteinizing, and follicle-stimulating hormones. HgCl2 was found to enhance the development of oxidative damage in the testicular tissue as presented by the imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidant molecules. In addition, excessive release of tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β was recorded in response to HgCl2 intoxication. Furthermore, a disturbance in the apoptotic proteins in favor of the pro-apoptotic proteins was also observed following HgCl2 intoxication. However, ZSCLE administration along with HgCl2 abolished significantly the molecular, biochemical, and histopathological alterations induced by HgCl2 intoxication. Our findings suggest that ZSCLE could be used to mitigate reproductive dysfunction associated with HgCl2 exposure.
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