Recent studies have suggested a role for abdominal obesity in male infertility. Previous studies have found that cell apoptosis exerts an important role in obesity-related male infertility. C1q/TNF-related protein 3 (CTRP3), a paralog of adiponectin, has been proposed to exert anti-apoptotic effects and to attenuate diabetes-related cardiac injuries. However, the role of CTRP3 in high-fat diet (HFD)-induced spermatogenic impairment remains unclear. In the present study, we fed male mice an HFD for 24 weeks to induce obesity. The expression of CTRP3 was decreased by HFD feeding. Supplementation with the recombinant human globular domain of CTRP3 (0.25 μg/g/day) for 4 weeks beginning at 20 weeks of the HFD improved spermatogenic function in the HFD-fed mice, which were characterized by improved testis morphology, increased testis weight/body weight ratio, and increased sperm count, sperm viability, and sperm motility. We also found that CTRP3 infusion resulted in the attenuation of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress and the activation of silence information regulator 1 (SIRT1) in the testes of obese mice. Our in vitro study also suggested that CTRP3 attenuated the palmitic acid (PA)-induced reductions in sperm viability and motility via the inhibition of ER stress. Moreover, germ cell-specific Sirtuin1 knockout abolished the protective effects of CTRP3 in vivo and in vitro. In vitro studies of human sperm showed that the protective effects of CTRP3 on sperm viability and motility were abrogated by a specific inhibitor of SIRT1. Thus, our results demonstrated that CTRP3 expression protected against HFD-induced spermatogenic deficiency through the SIRT1/ER stress pathway.

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