The goal of this minireview is to summarize our current knowledge on the reproductive toxicity of soluble nickel salts. We made an attempt to present the most relevant data obtained from in vivo and in vitro experiments performed on mammals, mammalian primary cell cultures and cell lines. Nickel has been demonstrated to disturb the mammalian reproductive functions at several levels of regulation. The results of previous investigations indicate that the hormonal effects may play an important role in the reproductive toxicology of nickel both at the neuroendocrine and gonadal levels in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. At the molecular level, it may be important that nickel may substitute certain other metals in metal dependent enzymes, leading to an altered protein function. It readily crosses the cell membrane via calcium channels and competes with calcium for specific receptors. Nickel can cross-link aminoacids to DNA, lead to formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), moreover mimic hypoxia. These changes may lead to the activation of some signaling pathways, subsequent transcription factors and eventually to alterations in gene expression and cellular metabolism. These events are likely to be involved in the reproductive toxicity of nickel.
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