Toxicology letters

Maternal exposure to benzo[b]fluoranthene disturbs reproductive performance in male offspring mice.

PMID 21392559


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are a large family of environmentally prevalent toxic compounds generated from the combustion of organic materials and diesel exhaust. Humans and wild animals are exposed to PAHs mostly through dietary intake of contaminated food. Benzo[b]fluoranthene (B[b]F) is a common constituent of PAH complexes present in diverse types of food. B[b]F has been found in human milk, raising the demand for the need for risk assessment of offspring after maternal exposure to B[b]F. In the present study, pregnant mice were orally exposed to low doses (2-2000μg/kg body weight) of B[b]F during gestational and lactational periods, and their male offspring were assessed. Maternal B[b]F exposure disturbed normal sperm function in F1 offspring. To understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which the perinatal exposure to B[b]F decreased sperm quality, the testes of young adult F1 mice were examined for changes in expression of steroidogenesis-related and testicular apoptosis mediators and found that aryl hydrocarbon receptor, estrogen receptor α, and a set of proapoptotic proteins including Bax, Noxa, Bad, and Bim were significantly upregulated. Therefore, the current transgenerational animal study implies that consumption of PAH-contaminated diets by mothers may possibly influence their offspring to cause dysfunctional male reproductive function in humans.