Microcystins LR (MC-LR) are hepatotoxic cyanotoxins that have been shown to induce reproductive toxicity, and Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Gonadal Axis (HPG) is responsible for the control of reproductive functions. However, few studies have been performed to evaluate the effects of MC-LR on HPG axis. This study aimed to investigate the MC-LR-induced toxicity in the reproductive system of mouse and focus on the HPG axis.
Adult male C57BL/6 mice were exposed to various concentrations of MC-LR (0, 3.75, 7.50, 15.00 and 30.00 µg/kg body weight per day) for 1 to 14 days, and it was found that exposure to different concentrations of MC-LR significantly disturbed sperm production in the mice testes in a dose- and time-dependent manner. To elucidate the associated possible mechanisms, the serum levels of testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) were assessed. Meanwhile, PCR assays were employed to detect alterations in a series of genes involved in HPG axis, such as FSH, LH, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and their complement receptors. Furthermore, the effect of MC-LR on the viability and testosterone production of Leydig cells were tested in vitro. Results: MC-LR significantly impaired the spermatogenesis of mice possibly through the direct or indirect inhibition of GnRH synthesis at the hypothalamic level, which resulted in reduction of serum levels of LH that lead to suppression of testosterone production in the testis of mice.