Ethanol exposure is known to suppress male reproductive activity in laboratory animals and humans. The present study was designed to evaluate whether chronic ethanol exposure decreases proliferative activity or increases apoptosis in the testes. Ethanol (1.5 g/kg or 3 g/kg i.p., 15% v/v in saline) was administrated to adult male rats for 10 days. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was used as a proliferative marker. Western blot analysis showed that ethanol administration significantly reduced the level of PCNA. Also, immunoreactivity of PCNA-positive cells in the spermatogonia and primary spermatocytes were decreased by ethanol exposure. However, the number of TUNEL-positive cells was significantly increased in the testicular germ cells of ethanol-treated rats. Moreover, ethanol administration significantly increased the level of activated caspase-3 in testes. In conclusion, our findings suggest that ethanol may partly contribute to the suppression of male reproductive activity through a reduction of cell proliferation and an enhancement of cell death in rat testes.
2006 by the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science