Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) Disrupts Testosterone Biosynthesis via CREB/CRTC2/StAR Signaling Pathway in Leydig Cells

By Lianglin Qiu, Hongxia Wang, Tianyi Dong, Jiyan Huang, Ting Li, Hang Ren, Xipei Wang, Jianhua Qu, and Shoulin Wang
January 6, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.tox.2020.152663

Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), a stable end-product of perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), is associated with male reproductive disorders, but its underlying mechanisms are still unclear. We used in vivo and in vitro models to investigate the effects of PFOS on testosterone biosynthesis and related mechanisms. First, male ICR mice were orally administered PFOS (0-10 mg/kg/bw) for 4 weeks. Bodyweight, sperm count, reproductive hormones, mRNA expression of the genes related to testosterone biosynthesis, and the protein expression of protein kinase A (PKA), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), cAMP-response element binding protein (CREB), CREB regulated transcription coactivator 2 (CRTC2) and steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) were evaluated. Furthermore, mouse primary Leydig cells were used to delineate the molecular mechanisms that mediate the effects of PFOS on testosterone biosynthesis. Our results demonstrated that PFOS dose-dependently decreased sperm count, testosterone level, CRTC2/StAR expression, and damaged testicular interstitium morphology, paralleled by increase in phosphorylated PKA, CREB and p38 in testes. Additionally, similar to the in vivo results, PFOS significantly decreased testosterone secretion, CRTC2/StAR expression, interaction between CREB and CRTC2 and binding of CREB/CRTC2 to StAR promoter region, paralleled by increase in phosphorylated-p38, PKA, and CREB expression. Meanwhile, inhibition of p38 by SB203580, or inhibition of PKA by H89 can significantly alleviate the above PFOS-induced effects. As such, the present study highlights a role of the CREB/CRTC2/StAR signaling pathway in PFOS-induced suppression of testosterone biosynthesis, advancing our understanding of molecular mechanisms for PFOS-induced male reproductive disorders.

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