The mechanisms of reproductive malfunction of male mammals caused by atrazine (ATZ) remain unknown. To explore the effects of ATZ on the expressions of StAR (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein), CYP (cytochrome-P450) 11A1, CYP17A1, 3β-HSD (3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase), INSL-3 (insulin-like factor 3), AR (androgen receptor), ER (estrogen receptor), LHR (luteinising hormone receptor) and INH-α (inhibin-alpha), we isolated Leydig cells from healthy immature rats (1820 days Wistar rats), set up Leydig cell cultures, evaluated the toxicity, and measured the expression levels of mRNA of tested genes by real-time polymerase chain reaction method after cultured Leydig cells were exposed in vitro to ATZ (232 μM) for 6 h. The results showed that the survival rate of Leydig cells decreased sharply with ATZ which could be blocked by a phytochemical agent, quercetin (50 μM). The mRNA expression of the tested genes increased with ATZ treatment which could be block by quercetin except AR and ER expressions. Furthermore, the phytochemical agent (1550 μM) caused a dose-dependent increase in both AR and ER mRNA expressions, suggesting stimulatory effects of QT on AR and ER-responsive signaling. The expressions of these genes were unaffected by cyclic-AMP when the stimulatory effects of ATZ on the tested genes were sustained. These findings suggest that ATZ may stimulate the expression of the tested steroidogenesis genes via a mechanism independent of cyclic-AMP signalling which could be blocked by QT. In addition, QT might promote the survival of interstitial Leydig cells exposed to ATZ.
Declaration of interest: The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research project.
Funding: This work was supported, however funding details unavailable.