Reproduction, Fertility and Development Reproduction, Fertility and Development Society
Vertebrate reproductive science and technology
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Effects of whole-body heat on male germ cell development and sperm motility in the laboratory mouse

H. Wechalekar A D E , B. P. Setchell A , K. R. Pilkington B C , C. Leigh A , W. G. Breed A and E. Peirce A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology, School of Medical Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

B Detmold Family Cytometry Facility, Hanson Institute, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

C Department of Haematology, SA Pathology, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

D Current address: Division of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, City East Campus, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.

E Corresponding author. Email: harsha.wechalekar@unisa.edu.au

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 28(5) 545-555 https://doi.org/10.1071/RD13395
Submitted: 20 November 2013  Accepted: 1 August 2014   Published: 11 September 2014

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of high temperatures on male germ cell development and epididymal sperm motility of laboratory mice. In Experiment 1, adult males (n = 16) were exposed to whole-body heat of 37–38°C for 8 h day–1 for 3 consecutive days, whereas controls (n = 4) were left at 23–24°C. In Experiment 2, adult mice (n = 6) were exposed to 37–38°C for a single 8-h period with controls (n = 6) left at 23–24°C. Experiment 2 was conducted as a continuation of previous study that showed changes in spermatozoa 16 h after exposure to heat of 37–38°C for 8 h day–1 for 3 consecutive days. In the present study, in Experiment 1, high temperature reduced testes weights 16 h and 14 days after exposure, whereas by Day 21 testes weights were similar to those in the control group (P = 0.18). At 16 h, 7 and 14 days after exposure, an increase in germ cell apoptosis was noticeable in early and late stages (I–VI and XI–XII) of the cycle of the seminiferous epithelium. However, apoptosis in intermediate stages (VII–X) was evident 16 h after heat exposure (P < 0.05), without any change at other time periods. By 21 days, there were no significant differences between heat-treated groups and controls. Considerably more caspase-3-positive germ cells occurred in heat-treated mice 16 h after heat exposure compared with the control group (P < 0.0001), whereas 8 h after heat in Experiment 2, sperm motility was reduced with a higher percentage of spermatozoa showing membrane damage. In conclusion, the present study shows that whole-body heat of 37–38°C induces stage-specific germ cell apoptosis and membrane changes in spermatozoa; this may result in reduced fertility at particular times of exposure after heating.

Additional keywords: apoptosis, membrane changes.


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