Zinc deficiency reduces fertility in C. elegans hermaphrodites and disrupts oogenesis and meiotic progression

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Zinc is necessary for successful gametogenesis in mammals; however the role of zinc in the gonad function of non-mammalian species has not been investigated. The genetic tractability, short generation time, and hermaphroditic reproduction of the nematode C. elegans offer distinct advantages for the study of impaired gametogenesis as a result of zinc deficiency. However the phenotypic reproductive effects arising from zinc restriction have not been established in this model. We therefore examined the effect of zinc deficiency on C. elegans reproduction by exposing worms to the zinc chelator N,N,N′,N′-tetrakis (2-pyridylmethyl)ethane-1,2-diamine (TPEN). Treatment began at the early larval stage and continued until reproductive senescence. TPEN treatment reduced the total number of progeny produced by C. elegans hermaphrodites compared with control subjects, with the largest difference in output observed 48 h after larval stage 4. At this time-point, zinc deficient worms displayed fewer embryos in the uterus and disorganized oocyte development when observed under DIC microscopy. DAPI staining revealed impaired oogenesis and chromosome dynamics with an expanded region of pachytene stage oocytes extending into the proximal arm of the gonad. This phenotype was not seen in control or zinc-rescue subjects. This study demonstrates that reproduction in C. elegans is sensitive to environmental perturbations in zinc, indicating that this is a good model for future studies in zinc-mediated subfertility. Aberrant oocyte development and disruption of the pachytene-diplotene transition indicate that oogenesis in particular is affected by zinc deficiency in this model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-209
Number of pages7
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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