The link between male diet and sperm quality has received significant investigation. However, the impact diet, and dietary supplements, have on the testicular environment has been examined to a lesser extent. Here, we establish the impact of a sub-optimal low protein diet (LPD) on testicular morphology, apoptosis and serum fatty acid profiles. Furthermore, we define whether supplementing a LPD with specific methyl donors abrogates any detrimental effects of the LPD. Male C57BL6 mice were fed either a control normal protein diet (NPD; 18% protein; n = 8), an isocaloric LPD (LPD; 9% protein; n = 8) or an LPD supplemented with methyl donors (MD-LPD; choline chloride, betaine, methionine, folic acid, vitamin B12; n = 8) for a minimum of 7 weeks. Analysis of male serum fatty acid profiles by gas chromatography revealed elevated levels of saturated fatty acids and lower levels of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids in MD-LPD males when compared to NPD and/or LPD males. Testes of LPD males displayed larger seminiferous tubule cross section area when compared to NPD and MD-LPD males, while MD-LPD tubules displayed a larger luminal area. Furthermore, TUNNEL staining revealed LPD males possessed a reduced number of tubules positive for apoptosis, while gene expression analysis showed MD-LPD testes displayed decreased expression of the pro-apoptotic genes Bax, Csap1 and Fas when compared to NPD males. Finally, testes from MD-LPD males displayed a reduced telomere length but increased telomerase activity. These data reveal the significance of sub-optimal nutrition for paternal metabolic and reproductive physiology.
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