Effects of Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants on Mouse Reproductive Function

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Virginia Tech


Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs) are antimicrobial disinfectants commonly used in commercial and household settings. While these compounds have been used for decades, reproductive toxicity has not been thoroughly evaluated. Extensive use of QACs results in ubiquitous human exposure to potentially toxic compounds. Reproductive toxicity of two common QACs, alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (ADBAC) and didecyl dimethyl ammonium chloride (DDAC), was investigated to determine gender-specific toxicity with an emphasis on male reproductive function. Breeding pairs of mice exposed for six months to ADBAC+DDAC exhibited decreases in fertility and fecundity, with fewer pregnancies and decreased numbers of pups over a six month period. Females proceeded through significantly fewer estrus cycles, and both ovulation and implantation rates were reduced. Males exhibited declines in both sperm concentration and motility. Male reproductive toxicity was further assessed in a series of in-vitro and in-vivo experiments. ADBAC+DDAC were cytotoxic to testicular Sertoli cells in culture at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.0005%. Changes in blood-testis-barrier integrity (BTB) were observed at 0.01% ADBAC+DDAC using a two-compartment culture system that measures transepithelial electrical resistance (TER). Sertoli cell cytotoxicity correlated with decreased TER at ADBAC+DDAC concentrations above 0.001%. In-vitro fertilization capacity of epididymal sperm was reduced in males given a 10-day rest period following ADBAC+DDAC exposure. Multigenerational changes in sperm parameters and in mRNA expression of enzymes involved with epigenetic modifications were evaluated across three generations. Sperm concentration and motility were reduced in F0 males exposed directly to ADBAC+DDAC. In F1 males, sperm concentration was increased and motility decreased, while there was no change in the F2 progeny. Genes involved in epigenetic modifications were altered in the exposed F0, with upregulation of two histone acetyltransferases (Hat1 and Kat2b) and downregulation of one lysine-specific demethylase (Kdm6b). F1 and F2 generations were not different from controls except for downregulation of the methyltransferase Dnmt1 in F1 progeny. The reproductive toxicity of ADBAC+DDAC identified in these studies, particularly to the male, compels further investigation into the potential effects that these compounds may have on human reproduction.



quaternary ammonium disinfectants, infertility, reproductive toxicology, testis, spermatogenesis, epigenetics