Fluoride is a widespread environmental pollutant that can induce low sperm quality and fertilizing ability; however, the underlying mechanism still remains unclear. Hence, we aimed to investigate the influence of fluoride on the sperm fertilizing ability via some key proteins in the epididymis. For this, 40 adult rats were assigned randomly into four groups. The
control group was given distilled water, while the other three groups were given 25, 50, and 100 mg of NaF/L via drinking water for 56 days, respectively. After 1 day, epididymides were processed for sperm−egg binding, RNA extraction, western blot, and immunofluorescence analysis. Fluoride exposure reduced the ability of sperm to break down the egg cumulus cell layer. A further study revealed that fluoride altered the expression levels of genes and proteins related to acrosome reaction in vivo, including SPAM1, ACR, and PRSS21. However, fluoride only affected the expression of the ACR protein only in the epididymis but not in the testis. Fluoride also affected the expression levels of the membrane proteins CD9 and CD81 of epididymosomes in the epididymis. From the results, it can be concluded that fluoride exposure reduced the ability of sperm to break down the egg cumulus cell layer, which could be one of the reasons for decreased fertility ability in males treated with fluoride. These
results provide some theoretical guidance and new ideas for treatments of low fertility, infertility, and other reproductive diseases.