Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in human follicular fluid impair **in vitro** oocyte developmental competence
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. Veterinary Sciences
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. Pharmacy
Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences . Biomedical Sciences
Human reproduction. - Bonn
, p. 1025-1033
University of Antwerp
BACKGROUND Increased global industrial activity has exposed humans to a wide variety of chemical substances some of which, called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or endocrine disruptors, can disrupt the endocrine system in the body. The ovarian follicle is a very fragile micro-environment where interactions between hormones, growth factors, the oocyte and its surrounding somatic cells are essential to generate a fully competent oocyte. In vitro experiments suggest that EDCs can disturb this finely tuned balance, but very scarse in vivo data are available to confirm this assumption. Therefore, we have investigated if the presence of EDCs in human follicular fluid is a risk factor for the developmental competence of an in vivo exposed oocyte. Furthermore, because of the limited access to human follicular fluid, we verified if follicular fluid contamination can be predicted based on EDC levels in serum. METHODS Follicular fluid (n = 40) and serum (n = 20) samples from women undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) were analyzed by means of gas chromatography combined with mass spectrometry to examine the presence of different EDCs, such as polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated diphenyl ethers and organochlorine pesticides. Statistical models were used to investigate the relation between the characteristics and ART results of the patients and the contamination status of their follicular fluid and to assess the capacity of serum samples to predict follicular fluid contamination. RESULTS Chlorinated biphenyl 153 (72 ± 44 and 201 ± 106 pg/ml) and p,p′-DDE (392 ± 348 and 622 ± 406 pg/ml) were the compounds found in the highest concentrations in follicular fluid and serum samples, respectively. A new variable principal component 1, representing the overall contamination status of the follicular fluid samples, is strongly associated with fertilization rate (P < 0.00001) and the proportion of high-quality embryos relative to the amount of retrieved oocytes (P < 0.05), even when the analysis is adjusted for age, estradiol concentration, BMI, fertilization procedure and male subfertility as explanatory variables. The strong correlations between the EDC concentrations in serum and follicular fluid (r ≥ 0.93) allowed us to build regression models, which accurately predict EDC concentrations in the follicular fluid based on serum samples. CONCLUSIONS An overall higher EDC contamination in the follicular micro-environment was associated with a decreased fertilization rate and consequently with a lower chance of an oocyte to develop into a high-quality embryo. In addition, EDC concentrations in serum were reliable predictors of the contamination status of the follicular micro-environment.