Indexed on: 11 Nov '11Published on: 11 Nov '11Published in: PloS one
This work shows that an overload of dietary cholesterol causes complete infertility in dyslipidemic male mice (the Liver X Receptor-deficient mouse model). Infertility resulted from post-testicular defects affecting the fertilizing potential of spermatozoa. Spermatozoa of cholesterol-fed lxr-/- animals were found to be dramatically less viable and motile, and highly susceptible to undergo a premature acrosome reaction. We also provide evidence, that this lipid-induced infertility is associated with the accelerated appearance of a highly regionalized epididymal phenotype in segments 1 and 2 of the caput epididymidis that was otherwise only observed in aged LXR-deficient males. The epididymal epithelial phenotype is characterized by peritubular accumulation of cholesteryl ester lipid droplets in smooth muscle cells lining the epididymal duct, leading to their transdifferentiation into foam cells that eventually migrate through the duct wall, a situation that resembles the inflammatory atherosclerotic process. These findings establish the high level of susceptibility of epididymal sperm maturation to dietary cholesterol overload and could partly explain reproductive failures encountered by young dyslipidemic men as well as ageing males wishing to reproduce.