Genetic and environmental factors produce different levels of DNA damage in spermatozoa. Usually, DNA-fragmented spermatozoa (DFS) are used with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatments in human reproduction, and use of DFS is still a matter of concern. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the long-term consequences on development and behavior of mice generated by ICSI with DFS. Using CD1 and B6D2F1 mouse strains, oocytes were injected with fresh spermatozoa or with frozen-thawed spermatozoa without cryoprotector. This treatment increased the percentage of TUNEL-positive spermatozoa, tail length as measured by comet assay, and loss of telomeres as measured by quantitative PCR. The ICSI-generated embryos were cultured for 24 h in KSOM, and 2-cell embryos were transferred into CD1 females. The DFS reduced both the rate of preimplantation embryo development and number of offspring. Immunofluorescence staining with an antibody against 5-methylcytosine showed a delay of 2 h on the active demethylation of male pronucleus in the embryos produced by ICSI. Moreover, ICSI affected gene transcription and methylation of some epigenetically regulated genes like imprinting, X-linked genes, and retrotransposon genes. At 3 and 12 mo of age, ICSI with DFS-produced animals and in vivo-fertilized controls were submitted to behavioral tests: locomotor activity (open field), exploratory/anxiety behavior (elevated plus maze, open field), and spatial memory (free-choice exploration paradigm in Y maze). Females produced by ICSI showed increased anxiety, lack of habituation pattern, deficit in short-term spatial memory, and age-dependent hypolocomotion in the open-field test (P < 0.05). Postnatal weight gain of mice produced by ICSI with fresh or frozen sperm was higher than that of their control counterparts from 16 wk on (P < 0.01). Anatomopathological analysis of animals at 16 mo of age showed some large organs and an increase in pathologies (33% of CD1 females produced with DFS presented some solid tumors in lungs and dermis of back or neck). Moreover, 20% of the B6D2F1 mice generated with DFS died during the first 5 mo of life, with 25% of the surviving animals showing premature aging symptoms, and 70% of the B6D2F1 mice generated with DFS died earlier than controls with different kind of tumors. We propose that depending on the level of DFS, oocytes may partially repair fragmented DNA, producing blastocysts able to implant and produce live offspring. The incomplete repair, however, may lead to long-term pathologies. Our data indicate that use of DFS in ICSI can generate effects that only emerge during later life, such as aberrant growth, premature aging, abnormal behavior, and mesenchymal tumors.
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Vol. 78 • No. 4