Epigenetic processes play a major role in normal mammalian development, particularly during gametogenesis and early embryogenesis. Thus, perturbation of epigenetic processes in the testis by xenobiotics could have a major impact on testicular function and fertility, and potentially affect the development and health of subsequent generations. There has been substantial research into the epigenetic toxicity of environmental exposures over the last decade. However, few studies have focussed on pharmaceutical drugs, which due to the nature of their use are typically found at much higher concentrations within exposed individuals than environmental chemicals. Here, we investigated genome-wide changes in testicular mRNA transcription, microRNA expression and DNA methylation to assess the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to the testicular toxicity induced by doxorubicin (DOX) as a representative, widely used and well-characterised anti-cancer drug. We demonstrated that DOX is able to induce transcriptional, microRNA and DNA methylation changes, which perturb pathways involved in stress/cell death and survival and testicular function and lead to germ cell loss and reproductive organ damage. This identified potential novel mechanisms of DOX-induced testicular toxicity for further focussed investigations. Such work is required to fully assess the role of epigenetics in toxicity, determine whether single and/or multigenerational epigenetic toxicity is a real public health concern, and begin to develop and incorporate relevant epigenetic endpoints into regulatory toxicology.
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© The Royal Society of Chemistry 2016.