A dramatical decline in human male reproductive function has been reported for the past 20 years. Many recent epidemiological, clinical and experimental findings suggest that the reproductive dysfunction could result from prenatal and neonatal chemical compound exposure. Even if numerous studies argue for a relationship between male infertility and environmental and/or occupational exposure, the molecular mechanisms by which these anti-reproductive compounds act are still unclear. Recent findings showed that a family of transmembranous proteins, connexins, regulates numerous physiological functions involved in the development such as cell proliferation, differentiation, migration and apoptosis. In the testis and the ovary, connexins are known to be essential for the establishment and the maintenance of spermatogenesis in males and oogenesis and folliculogenesis in females. Moreover, mutation of connexin genes leads to several developmental human diseases (myelin-related diseases, hearing loss, congenital cataract, skin disorders or more complex syndromes such as the oculodendrodigital dysplasia....) and altered connexin expression, trafficking and degradation are often associated with the tumoral process. We propose, in the present work, to give an overview of connexin expression and intercellular gap junction coupling during development: in preimplantation, implantation and postimplantation embryos. Moreover, we underline the impact of maternal chemical exposure on connexin expression during fetal gonad development and we link this effect to future offspring fertility.
Keywords: Connexins, gap junction, development, environment, chemical, embryo, fetus, neonatal, ovary, testis, spermatogenesis, oogenesis, fertility
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