PloS one

Paternal cyclophosphamide exposure induces the formation of functional micronuclei during the first zygotic division.

PMID 22110683


Paternal exposures to cancer chemotherapeutics or environmental chemicals may have adverse effects on progeny outcome that are manifested in the preimplantation embryo. The objectives of this study were to determine the impact of paternal exposure to cyclophosphamide, an anticancer alkylating agent, on the formation, chromatin origin and function of micronuclei in cleavage stage rat embryos. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were gavaged with saline or cyclophosphamide (6 mg/kg/day) for 4 weeks and mated to naturally cycling females to collect pronuclear zygotes and 2 to 8 cell embryos. Micronuclear chromatin structure was characterized using confocal microscopy to detect immunoreactivities for H3K9me3, a marker for maternal chromatin, and lamin B, a nuclear membrane marker. DNA synthesis was monitored using EdU (5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine) incorporation. Fertilization by cyclophosphamide-exposed spermatozoa led to a dramatic elevation in micronuclei in cleavage stage embryos (control embryos: 1% to 5%; embryos sired by treated males: 70%). The formation of micronuclei occurred during the first zygotic division and was associated with a subsequent developmental delay. The absence of H3K9me3 indicated that these micronuclei were of paternal origin. The micronuclei had incomplete peri-nuclear and peri-nucleolar lamin B1 membrane formation but incorporated EdU into DNA to the same extent as the main nucleus. The formation of micronuclei in response to the presence of a damaged paternal genome may play a role in increasing the rate of embryo loss that is associated with the use of assisted reproductive technologies, parenthood among cancer survivors, and paternal aging.