Transparent Process

Direct action of endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm

Christian Schiffer, Astrid Müller, Dorte L Egeberg, Luis Alvarez, Christoph Brenker, Anders Rehfeld, Hanne Frederiksen, Benjamin Wäschle, U Benjamin Kaupp, Melanie Balbach, Dagmar Wachten, Niels E Skakkebaek, Kristian Almstrup, Timo Strünker

Author Affiliations

  1. Christian Schiffer1,,
  2. Astrid Müller1,,
  3. Dorte L Egeberg2,
  4. Luis Alvarez1,
  5. Christoph Brenker13,
  6. Anders Rehfeld2,
  7. Hanne Frederiksen2,
  8. Benjamin Wäschle1,
  9. U Benjamin Kaupp1,
  10. Melanie Balbach1,
  11. Dagmar Wachten1,
  12. Niels E Skakkebaek*,2,
  13. Kristian Almstrup2 and
  14. Timo Strünker*,1
  1. 1Center of Advanced European Studies and Research, Abteilung Molekulare Neurosensorik, Bonn, Germany
  2. 2Department of Growth and Reproduction, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
  3. 3 German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Bonn, Germany
  1. * Corresponding author. Tel: +45 3545 5086; Fax: +45 3545 6054; E‐mail: nes{at}

    Corresponding author. Tel:+49 228 9656 162; Fax: +49 228 9656 9162; E‐mail: timo.struenker{at}

  1. These authors contributed equally to this work

View Abstract


Synthetic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), omnipresent in food, household, and personal care products, have been implicated in adverse trends in human reproduction, including infertility and increasing demand for assisted reproduction. Here, we study the action of 96 ubiquitous EDCs on human sperm. We show that structurally diverse EDCs activate the sperm‐specific CatSper channel and, thereby, evoke an intracellular Ca2+ increase, a motility response, and acrosomal exocytosis. Moreover, EDCs desensitize sperm for physiological CatSper ligands and cooperate in low‐dose mixtures to elevate Ca2+ levels in sperm. We conclude that EDCs interfere with various sperm functions and, thereby, might impair human fertilization.


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A plethora of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)—omnipresent in food, household, and personal care products—interfere with various human sperm functions and thus might impair fertilization.

  • EDCs directly activate the CatSper Ca2+ channel on human sperm and thereby evoke an increase in [Ca2+]i, a motility response, and acrosomal exocytosis.

  • In complex low‐dose mixtures, EDCs cooperate to elevate [Ca2+]i in sperm.

  • EDCs desensitize human sperm for progesterone and prostaglandins—important hormones released by cells surrounding the oocyte.

  • Received April 4, 2014.
  • Revision received April 9, 2014.
  • Accepted April 9, 2014.
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