Brevik, A., Lindeman, B., Rusnakova, V., Olsen, A. K., Brunborg, G., Duale, N. Paternal benzo[a]pyrene exposure affects gene expression in the early developing mouse embryo. Toxicological Sciences, 129(1), 2012. ISSN 1096-6080.
The health of the offspring depends on the genetic constitution of the parental germ cells. The paternal genome appears to be important; e.g., de novomutations in some genes seem to arise mostly from the father, whereas epigenetic modifications of DNA and histones are frequent in the paternal gonads. Environmental contaminants which may affect the integrity of the germ cells comprise the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P). B[a]P has received much attention due to its ubiquitous distribution, its carcinogenic and mutagenic potential, and also effects on reproduction. We conducted an in vitro fertilization (IVF) experiment using sperm cells from B[a]P-exposed male mice to study effects of paternal B[a]P exposure on early gene expression in the developing mouse embryo. Male mice were exposed to a single acute dose of B[a]P (150mg/kg, ip) 4 days prior to isolation of cauda sperm, followed by IVF of oocytes from unexposed superovulated mice. Gene expression in fertilized zygotes/embryos was determined using reverse transcription-qPCR at the 1-, 2-, 4-, 8-, and blastocyst cell stages of embryo development. We found that paternal B[a]P exposure altered the expression of numerous genes in the developing embryo especially at the blastocyst stage. Some genes were also affected at earlier developmental stages. Embryonic gene expression studies seem useful to identify perturbations of signaling pathways resulting from exposure to contaminants, and can be used to address mechanisms of paternal effects on embryo development.