- Open Access
Antioxidant properties of Pelargonium graveolens L’Her essential oil on the reproductive damage induced by deltamethrin in mice as compared to alpha-tocopherol
- Ahlem Ben Slima1,
- Manel Ben Ali†2,
- Mohamed Barkallah†1,
- Al Ibrahim Traore3,
- Tahia Boudawara4,
- Noureddine Allouche2 and
- Radhouane Gdoura1Email author
© Ben Slima et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
- Received: 8 January 2013
- Accepted: 28 February 2013
- Published: 7 March 2013
Exposure to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin has been demonstrated to exert a wide range of effects on non-targeted organisms. The beneficial effects of geranuim essential oil (EO) as an antioxidant has been assessed in deltamethrin (DL) orally administered mice by studying whether the reprotoxicity caused by deltamethrin can be effectively combated with the geranium oil and the effects were compared to vitamin E, as the standard reference drug.
Sixty male albino mice were divided into six equal groups: a control group, a group of mice was given deltamethrin (5 mg/kg b.w.), two groups were administered deltamethrin after having given geranium essential oil (67 mg/kg b.w.) or vitamin E (Vit E) (100 mg/kg b.w.), and two groups received only EO of geranium or Vit E. When compared to control, a dose of deltamethrin 5 mg/kg/day causes a decrease in the epididymal sperm count motility and viability and an increase in the number of abnormal morphology in spermatozoa. DL-exposed mice showed a significant increase of lipid peroxidation (LPP) in the testis compared to control animals.
Essential oil of geranium prevented testicular oxidative damage explored by reduced LPP and improved total sperm motility, viability and morphology in mice spermatozoa. Our study showed a positive influence of geranium essential oil in the animal male reproductive system similar than that of Vit E.
- Oxidative damages
- Geranium oil
The increasing release of chemicals into the environment dictates attention to a better under-standing of their toxicity in human and ecotoxicological effects. Many studies suggest that environmental contaminants disrupt male reproduction and play an important role in the declination of the quality and quantity of human semen . Several currently used pesticides are known to adversely impair reproductive competence of males under laboratory, field, clinical or occupational setting. Published studies reported that pyrethrinoid can impair fertility, deteriorate semen quality, and cause testicular degeneration, male reproductive failure and malformations in the foetuses in the rodents following repeated exposure [2, 3]. Deltamethrin [(R, S)] is a type-II pyrethroid synthetic insecticide, which has been widely used to control noxious insects in agriculture, forestry and horticulture. However, a number of studies have demonstrated genotoxic and tumorogenic effects of deltamethrin in mammalian and non-mammalian species [4, 5]. For many pesticides, induction of oxidative stress is one of the main mechanisms of their action. The chronic exposure to deltamethrin caused also haemolysis, hepatic, renal toxicities  and neurodegeneration . The mechanism of such pathological facts may be prompted by the free radical release and the lipid peroxidation that it induces. During the past few years, estimation of free radical generation and antioxidants defense has become an important aspect of investigation in mammals for the protection of cells against oxidative damage due to pesticides , heavy metals  and chemotherapeutic agent toxicities that they generated probably oxygen-reactive species (ROS) which led to oxidative stress.
Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens L’Hér.) is widely known as one of the medicinal herbs with the highest antioxidant activity. Essential oils are a folk medicine and recently their use has expanded worldwide to include therapy against various kinds of inflammatory diseases. A great number of new drugs discovered in the last few decades are originate from natural sources . Natural products have been increasingly used for the prevention and treatment of various conditions [11, 12].
Geranium essential oil has historically been used in the treatment of dysentery, hemorrhoids, inflammation, heavy menstrual flows and even cancer . The French medicinal community currently treats diabetes, diarrhoea, gallbladder problems, gastric ulcers, liver problems, sterility and urinary stones with this oil [14, 15]. In Chinese homeopathy, the geranium essential oil is known to open up the liver charka and promote the expulsion of toxins that prohibit the achievement of balance within the body . The aim of the current study was to determine the components of Pelargonium graveolens essential oil and to evaluate its protective effects against deltamethrin-induced reprotoxicity in male mice.
DL is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide (C23H19Br23NO3). CAS chemical name is a (1R,3R)-3-(2,2-dbromovinyl)-2,2-dimethyl-cyclopropane carboxylate de (S)-α-cyano-3 phénoxybenzyle, CAS registry number 52918-63-5. A commercial formulation of DL, named “Decis EC25” (Bayer CropScience) was used in the experiments. All other chemical products used in this study were purchased from Sigma Chemical Co. (St Louis, France).
Samples of P.graveolens (geraniaceae; known as Geranium); were collected from Sfax, South of Tunisia in March 2011. A voucher specimen was deposited at the laboratory of Natural substances chemistry, Faculty of Science of Sfax, Tunisia.
Extraction of essential oil
A bout 200 g of the fresh leaves of P.graveolens was completely immersed in 1000 ml distilled water and hydro-distilled for 4 hours in Clevenger-type apparatus until 250 ml of the water–oil layer was obtained. The oily layer obtained on the top of the aqueous distillate was extracted three times with diethyl ether. The recovered organic solvent was dried over anhydrous sodium sulfate until the last traces of water were removed and evaporated by vacuum distillation at room temperature to yield greenish yellow oil. The obtained essential oil was stored in a dark glass bottle at 4°C until tested and analyzed. Yield based on dried weight of the sample was calculated.
Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS)
The analysis of the essential oil was performed on a GC–MS HP model 5975B inert MSD (Agilent Technologies, J&W Scientific Products, Palo Alto, CA, USA), equipped with an Agilent Technologies capillary DB-5MS column (30 m length; 0.25 mm i.d.; 0.25 μm film thickness), and coupled to a mass selective detector (MSD5975B, ionization voltage 70 eV; all Agilent, Santa Clara, CA). The carrier gas was He and was used at 1 ml/min flow rate. The oven temperature program was as follows: 1 min at 100°C ramped from 100 to 260°C at 4°C min-1 and 10 min at 260°C. The chromatograph was equipped with a split/splitless injector used in the split mode. The split ratio was 1:100. Identification of components was assigned by matching their mass spectra with Wiley and NIST library data, standards of the main components and comparing their Kovats Retention Indices (KRI) with reference libraries and from the literature [17, 18]. The component concentration was obtained using semi-quantification by peak area integration from GC peaks and by applying the correction factors.
Adult, healthy and virgin Swiss Albino male mice weighing 27 ± 3.0 g were obtained from the Centre of Veterinary Research (Sfax, Tunisia). Animals were examined for health status and acclimated to the laboratory environment for 1 week prior to use. All animals were housed in stainless steel cages and maintained on a 12 h light /dark cycle. The animal room was designed to maintain temperature at 23 ± 2°C and relative humidity at approximately 50%. Food and water were provided ad libitum.
The animals were randomly divided into six groups of ten mice each and they were treated as follows: group 1: control mice received 2.5% diluted DMSO by gavages (C), and served as negative control; group 2: received DL (5 mg/kg b.w./day (≈ ¼ DL50 for mouse)); group 3: received DL(5 mg/kg b.w./day) and essential oil of P.graveolens at (67 mg/kg b.w./day) after 120 min of DL administration; group 4: received DL(5 mg/kg body weight/day) and Vitamin E (Vit E) at 100 mg/kg b.w./day after 120 min of DL administration; group 5: received only essential oil of P.graveolens (EO) at 67 mg/kg b.w./day; group 6: received only Vitamin E (Vit E) at dose 100 mg/kg body weight, and served as positive control for antioxidant treatment. The essential oil and Vitamin E were diluted to 2.5% by 2.5% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and then we added 12.5 μl/ml of Tween20 .
The experimental was continued for 35 days. The proper doses of treatment for each animal were placed into a syringe that was inserted orally with the help of plastic tube directly into the oropharyngeal region. The experimental protocol was performed according to the European convention for the protection of vertebrate animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes (Council of Europe No123, Strasbourg, 1985) and approved by the ethics committee for research on laboratory animal use of our institution.
Epididymal sperm were collected by cutting the one epididymis into small pieces in 2 ml of physiological saline at 32°C. Sperm evaluation included cell concentration, viability, progressive motility, and normal morphology according to World Health Organization guidelines .
Sperm motility and count
Sperm motility was determined by scoring the number of all progressive sperm and then the non-progressive and the immotile sperm in the same field. On each slide, at least 100 sperm cells were counted. Sperm motility assessment was repeated in a new preparation of the same sample. First, the percentage of sperm cells in each motility group was calculated and then the average in each group for the two assessments of the two slides was assayed according to Kvist and Björndahl . From this solution, 20 μl aliquots were placed on the Neubauer Hemacytometer for counting the number of spermatozoa/epididymis.
Sperm viability study was assessed using the Eosin/Nigrosin stain. The staining was performed with 1 drop of fresh semen into 2 drops of staining solution on a microscope slide. Using another slide, a smear was made and allowed to dry. Unstained (intact) and red-colored (with damaged membranes) spermatozoa were counted under the microscope using × 1000 objectives and oil immersion. Sperm viability was defined as the percentage of intact cells, as per the procedures described in the WHO Laboratory Manual .
To evaluate the spermatozoa abnormalities, sperm suspension was stained with Eosin; smears were made on slides, air-dried and made permanent. The spermatozoa were classified according to the Wyrobek and Bruce criteria . Sperm cells with normal morphology and cells presenting abnormalities in head, mid-piece and tail were assessed. At least 200 sperm cells were observed in each slide, under 1000× magnification.
Measurement of Lipid Peroxidation and Protein Carbonyl Levels in testis
LPP process is determined by the thiobarbituric acid (TBA) method which estimates the malondialdehyde formation (MDA) . Briefly, 0.5 ml of testis homogenate was mixed with 1 ml of trichloroacetic acid solution and centrifuged at 2500 g for 10 min. One millilitre of a solution containing 0.67% thiobarbituric acid (TBA) and 0.5 ml of supernatant were incubated for 15 min at 90°C and cooled. Absorbance of TBA-MDA complex was measured at 532 nm. Lipid peroxidation is expressed as nmoles MDA/g tissue.
Protein oxidation was determined based on the reaction of the carbonyl groups with 2, 4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH) to form 2, 4 dinitrophenylhydrazone, as described by Reznick and Packer . Samples were read at 370 nm and carbonyl content was calculated using the molar absorption coefficient for aliphatic hydrazones (22,000 M-1 cm-1) and expressed as μmole carbonyl/mg protein.
Determination of testis enzymatic antioxidants
Catalase (CAT) was assayed by the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide and converts it to water and molecular oxygen according to the method of Aebi . Decrease in absorbance due to H2O2 degradations was monitored at 240 nm for 1 min and the enzyme activity was expressed as μmol H2O2 consumed /min/mg protein.
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity was estimated according to Beauchamp and Fridovich . The reaction mixture contained 50 mM of testis tissue homogenates in potassium phosphate buffer (pH = 7.4), 0.1 mM methionine, 2 μM riboflavine and 75 μM Nitro Bleu Tetrazoluim (NBT). The developed blue colour reaction was measured at 560 nm. Units of SOD activity were expressed as the amount of enzyme required to inhibit the reduction of NBT by 50% and the activity was expressed as U/ mg protein.
Determination of testis non-enzymatic antioxidants
GSH in tissues was determined by the method of Ellman  modified by Jollow et al  based on the development of a yellow colour when 5, 5-dithiobis-2nitrobenzoicacid (DTNB) was added to compounds containing sulfhydryl groups. 500 μl of testis tissue homogenate in phosphate buffer were added to ml of 4% sulfosalicylic acid. The mixture was centrifuged at 1600 g for 15 min. 500 ml of supernatant were taken and added to Ellman’s reagent. The absorbance was measured at 412 nm after 10 min. total GSH content was expressed as μg/mg of tissue.
Ascorbic acid content was determined spectrophotometrically by dinitrophenyl-hydrazine method described by Jacques-Silva and others . Briefly, the ascorbic acid in the testes homogenate was oxidized by Cu 2+ to form dihydro-ascorbic acid, which reacts with acidic 4-dinitrophenylhydrazine to form a red hydrazone. Final color development was achieved with 65% sulfuric acid and then optical density was measured at 540 nm. The concentration of the samples in vitamin c is obtained from a standard range of ascorbic acid from a dilution of 10 mg/ml ascorbic acid. The calibration curve was prepared using ascorbic acid as standard. Results were expressed as μmole/g of tissue.
Protein determination in testis
The total protein concentration of supernatant was determined according to Lowry et al  using bovine serum albumin BSA as a standard.
For light microscopic examination, tissue samples of testis of the experimental mice were fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde solution for 24 h. After routine processing, paraffin-embedded tissue samples were sectioned at 3-5 μm thickness and stained with Mayer’s haematoxylin and eosin. For testicular toxicity, approximately 200 circularly sectioned seminiferous tubules for each mouse were assessed microscopically, and then the percentages of tubules with histopathological changes were calculated .
The results obtained are expressed as mean values ± SD. Statistical significance was assessed using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Values of P < 0.05 were regarded as statistically significant. All statistical analyses were performed using the Graph Pad Prism version 4 Software (Graph Pad Software, Inc. La Jolla, CA, USA).
Chemical composition of P. graveolens essential oil
Identified components (%)
Effect of different treatments on cell’s density, viability, motility and morphology in control group (C) and mice treated with deltamethrin (DL), essential oil of P. graveolens (EO) and Vitamin E (Vit E) or their combination
DL + EO
DL + Vit E
Spermatozoa count Per epididymis (×106)
5.90 ± 0.55
1.96 ± 0.25***
5.09 ± 0.35* ###
5.11 ± 0.31* ###
5.77 ± 0.62 ###
5.76 ± 0.71 ###
78.44 ± 5.85
39.33 ± 6.82***
76.11 ± 10.01 ###
66.11 ± 18.6 ###
75.00 ± 8.87 ###
88.67 ± 2.74 ###
89.33 ± 3.97
72.11 ± 3.14***
83.22 ± 1.92* ###
83.00 ± 4.61* ###
85.89 ± 6.13 ###
89.00 ± 4.27 ###
7.00 ± 1.58
22.00 ± 3.94***
15.53 ± 3.59** #
16.88 ± 7.12** #
6.25 ± 3.28 ###
7.88 ± 3.00 ###
Results of sperm morphology assessment in control group (C) and mices treated with deltamethrin (DL), essential oil of P. graveolens (EO) and Vitamin E (Vit E) or their combination
DL + EO
DL + Vit E
Categories of sperm abnormality in semen samples
Effect of different treatments on oxidative stress parameters: lipid peroxidation (MDA) and protein carbonyl content (PCO) in testis of controls (C) and mice treated with deltamethrin (DL), essential oil of P. graveolens (EO) and Vitamin E (Vit E) or their combination
DL + EO
DL + Vit E
299.26 ± 11.64
470.93 ± 11.02***
303.8 ± 13.88 ###
297.46 ± 5.57 ###
242.20 ± 8.72 ###
284.53 ± 12.10 ###
0.30 ± 0.10
0.92 ± 0.25***
0.46 ± 0.10 ##
0.47 ± 0.08 ##
0.23 ± 0.13 ###
0.53 ± 0.08 ###
To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first in vivo experimental that investigated the antioxidant effect of Pelargonium graveolens on mice sperm kinematic parameters.
The rose-scented geranium Pelargonium graveolens L’Her is used for many years in traditional medicine [48, 49]. Recently, Boukhris et al demonstrated that administration of essential oil of P.graveolens may be helpful in the prevention of diabetic complications associated with oxidative stress . It seems that many of these pharmacologic features of essential oil of geranium are due to its potent antioxidant actions. In the present study, geranium acts as a natural suppressor of oxidative stress which resulting in sperm promoted quality.
Based on these results, this study showed a positive influence of geranium essential oil in the animal male reproductive system. Further preclinical studies and clinical trials in humans are needed to find out a possible place for it in therapies of fertility disturbances.
The present work was supported by DGRST grants (Direction Générale de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique-Tunisie. Appui à la Recherche Universitaire de base UR11ES70).
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