This study aims to explore the protective effect of selenium (Se) on chronic zearalenone (ZEN)-induced reproductive system damage in male mice and the possible protective molecular mechanism against this. The chronic ZEN-induced injury mouse model was established with the continuous intragastric administration of 40 mg/kg body mass (B.M.) ZEN for 28 days. Then, interventions with different doses (0.1, 0.2, and 0.4 mg/kg B.M.) of Se were conducted on mice to analyse the changes in organ indexes of epididymis and testis, antioxidant capability of testis, serum level of testosterone, sperm concentration and motility parameters, and the expression levels of apoptosis-associated genes and blood testis barrier- (BTB) related genes. Our results showed that Se could greatly improve the ZEN-induced decrease of epididymis indexes and testis indexes. Results also showed that the decrease in sperm concentration, sperm normality rate, and sperm motility parameters, including percentage of motile sperm (motile), tropism percentage (progressive) and sperm average path velocity (VAP), caused by ZEN were elevated upon administration of the higher dose (0.4 mg/kg) and intermediate dose (0.2 mg/kg) of Se. Selenium also significantly reduced the content of malondialdehyde (MDA) but enhanced the activities of antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in the testis tissue. Further research demonstrated that ZEN increased the level of mRNA expression of BCL2-associated X protein
) and caspase 3
), decreased the level of mRNA expression of B cell leukemia/lymphoma 2
) and cadherin 2
), whereas the co-administration of Se reversed these gene expression levels. Our results indicated that high levels of Se could protect against reproductive system damage in male mice caused by ZEN and the mechanism might such be that Se improved mice antioxidant ability, inhibited reproductive cell apoptosis, and increased the decrease of BTB integrity-related genes caused by ZEN.
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