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Diethylstilbestrol-treated adult rats with altered epididymal sperm numbers and sperm motility parameters, but without alterations in sperm production and sperm morphology.


In this study, we characterized estrogenic effects of diethylstilbestrol (DES) on reproductive parameters in male rats to identify a minimal dose level that alters epididymal and sperm functions but has little or no effect on sperm production and/or spermatogenesis. Adult rats (five animals/group) received s.c. injections of 0.2 ml of corn oil containing DES at a rate of 1.0 mg, 200 microg, 40 microg, 8 microg, 1.6 microg, or 320 ng x rat(-1) x day(-1) for 12 days. The control group received corn oil only. DES effects were similar in the 8-microg group and higher dose groups and included significant (P < or = 0.05) reductions in 1) absolute and relative weights of the head and body of the epididymis (EP), tail of the EP, and seminal vesicle, 2) numbers of sperm in both regions of the EP, and 3) motility characteristics in sperm collected from the tail of the EP. Conversely, no significant changes were observed in relative testis weight, daily sperm production, spermatogenesis, seminiferous epithelial height in stage VII, and sperm morphology. All of the above parameters in the 1.6-microg group (except seminal vesicle weight) and 320-ng group were comparable to those of controls. Plasma testosterone (T) level was reduced to an almost undetectable level in the > or = 8-microg groups and to a very low level in the 1.6-microg group (0.35 vs. 2.36 ng/ml in controls or 320-ng group), but LH level was unaltered. In a parallel fertility study, males received DES at a rate of 40, 8, or 1.6 microg x rat(-1) x day(-1) for 12 days prior to and 12 days during cohabitation (1:1) with untreated females. Of the 15 females cohabited with treated males (5 females/dose), none in the 40-microg and 8-microg groups and 1 in the 1.6-microg group formed a copulatory plug and delivered 8 pups, in contrast to 5/5 copulatory plugs and 13-15 pups/litter in the controls. DES at a rate of 8 microg x rat(-1) x day(-1) for 12 days reduced EP weights, sperm numbers in the EP, and sperm motility patterns but caused minimal to no alterations in daily sperm production, spermatogenesis, or sperm morphology. Factors other than T, or in addition to lower T, may be responsible for DES-induced reproductive disorders (despite lower T, sperm contents and sperm motility patterns in the EP were normal in the 1.6-microg group). Deficits in EP sperm functions and/or sexual behavior (as evident from absence of copulatory plugs) probably accounted for reduced fertility in treated males.


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    Department of Biomedical Sciences, Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama 36088, USA.

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    Biology of reproduction 64:3 2001 Mar pg 927-34


    Body Weight
    Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
    Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
    Luteinizing Hormone
    Microscopy, Phase-Contrast
    Organ Size
    Rats, Sprague-Dawley
    Sperm Count
    Sperm Motility

    Pub Type(s)

    Journal Article
    Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
    Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.



    PubMed ID