Int J Mol Sci 23 (15) - [2022-08-05; online 2022-08-05]
Studies indicate that phthalates are endocrine disruptors affecting reproductive health. One of the most commonly used phthalates, di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), has been linked with adverse reproductive health outcomes in men, but the mechanisms behind these effects are still poorly understood. Here, adult male mice were orally exposed to DBP (10 or 100 mg/kg/day) for five weeks, and the testis and adrenal glands were collected one week after the last dose, to examine more persistent effects. Quantification of testosterone, androstenedione, progesterone and corticosterone concentrations by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry showed that testicular testosterone was significantly decreased in both DBP treatment groups, whereas the other steroids were not significantly altered. Western blot analysis of testis revealed that DBP exposure increased the levels of the steroidogenic enzymes CYP11A1, HSD3β2, and CYP17A1, the oxidative stress marker nitrotyrosine, and the luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR). The analysis further demonstrated increased levels of the germ cell marker DAZL, the Sertoli cell markers vimentin and SOX9, and the Leydig cell marker SULT1E1. Overall, the present work provides more mechanistic understanding of how adult DBP exposure can induce effects on the male reproductive system by affecting several key cells and proteins important for testosterone biosynthesis and spermatogenesis, and for the first time shows that these effects persist at least one week after the last dose. It also demonstrates impairment of testosterone biosynthesis at a lower dose than previously reported.