- Fluoride damaged the typical “9 + 2″ microtubule structure of sperm flagellum.
- Fluoride reduced AKAP3 and AKAP4 expressions related to fibrous sheathes formation.
- CFAP43, CFAP44 and HYDIN expressions in sperm axoneme were down-regulated by fluoride.
- Fluoride did not affect Dnah1, Eno4, Spef2, Spag6, Spag16, and Cfap69 expressions in testes.
Excessive fluoride (F) ingestion via drinking water interfered with spermatogenesis and lowered sperm quality of human and animals. However, it is still unclear why the effects of fluoride on sperm quality focus on mostly sperm motility rather than sperm count. The objective of this study is to investigate the potential relationship between alteration in the structure and function of sperm flagellum and fluoride exposure in the environment. 40 male mice were allocated to four groups which were treated with 0, 25, 50, 100 mg/L NaF deionized water, respectively, for 8 weeks continuously. The testicular morphology, ultra-structure of fibrous sheath and axoneme of sperm flagellum, and eleven key function genes Akap3, Akap4, Dnah1, Eno4, Cfap43, Cfap44, Hydin, Spef2, Spag6, Spag16, and Cfap69 were examined by histology, transmission electron microscopy, and real-time PCR methods respectively. The results displayed that fluoride damaged the typical “9 + 2″ microtubule structure including fibrous sheathes and axoneme of sperm flagellum in testes of mice. Furthermore, the mRNA and protein expression levels of AKAP3 and AKAP4 related to fibrous sheathes formation, and CFAP43, CFAP44 and HYDIN in axoneme were down-regulated by fluoride exposure. Taken together, we revealed that fluoride altered the structures of the fibrous sheathes and axonemal in sperm flagellum via down-regulating the mRNA and protein expression levels of AKAP3, AKAP4, CFAP43, CFAP44, and HYDIN, which may be one of the reasons that fluoride lowered sperm quality and male reproductive function.