Chemotherapy drugs cyclophosphamide, cisplatin and doxorubicin induce germ cell loss in an in vitro model of the prepubertal testis

Ellie Smart, Federica Lopes, Siobhan Rice, Boglarka Nagy, Richard A. Anderson, Rod T. Mitchell, Norah Spears

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Long term survival rates for childhood cancers is steadily increasing, however cancer survivors can experience fertility problems as a consequence of chemotherapy treatment. This is particularly problematic for young boys, for whom no fertility preservation treatment is yet established. Here, we have determined the effects on prepubertal mouse testis of three commonly used chemotherapy drugs; cyclophosphamide (using its active metabolite phosphoramide mustard), cisplatin and doxorubicin, exposing testicular fragments to a clinically relevant range of concentrations in vitro. All three drugs induced a specific and highly significant loss of germ cells, including spermatogonial stem cells. In contrast, there was no significant effect on somatic cells, for either Sertoli or interstitial cells. Time course analysis of cleaved Caspase-3 expression showed a significant increase in apoptosis eight hours prior to a detectable decrease in germ cell numbers following exposure to phosphoramide mustard or cisplatin, although this pattern was not seen following doxorubicin-exposure. Moreover, analysis of DNA damage at 16 h showed increased γH2AX expression in response to all three drugs. Overall, results show that cisplatin, doxorubicin and cyclophosphamide all specifically induce loss of germ cells, including of spermatogonial stem cells, in the prepubertal mouse testis at concentrations relevant to human therapeutic exposures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1773
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2018


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