Triterpene betulin may be involved in the acute effects of pulp and paper mill effluent on testis physiology in zebrafish
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Pulp and paper mill effluent can cause changes in the morphology and energy metabolism in the zebrafish (Danio rerio) testis. Betulin, a naturally occurring triterpene is commonly present in this type of effluent and is suspected of being involved in these effects. The aim of this study was to compare the effects pulp and paper mill effluent and betulin on various aspects of testicular physiology in the zebrafish. This included the in vitro effects of effluent and betulin on testicular lactate content and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity. In addition, the effects of betulin on glucose uptake, glycogen, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), reactive oxygen and nitrogen species formation and oxidative damage in the testes were determined. Furthermore, we compared the effects and mechanism of action of betulin and effluent on calcium homeostasis in testes. In vitro exposure to both effluent and betulin decreased lactate and calcium influx, possibly due to the activation of the sodium‑calcium exchanger (NCX) pump. Additionally, betulin-treated testes had higher reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reduced glutathione (GSH) content, as well as increased glutathione transferase (GST) activity and a tendency towards decreased catalase (CAT) activity. Thus, this study shows that alterations in testis physiology caused by the pulp and paper mill effluent in the testis may be due in part to the actions of betulin.