In this report, we have examined the effects of lithium on testicular morphology in a male subtropical wild avian species, the roseringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri). Adult male birds were collected during the months of February-March, a time when the testicular gametogenic activity in these seasonally breeding birds is at its peak. They were injected, intramuscularly, twice daily (07:00 and 19:00 h) with lithium chloride (Sigma Chemical Company) at a dosage of 0.5 mEq/Kg body weight either for 5 or 10 days. A significant decrease in both the absolute and relative testicular weights was evident in the lithium-treated birds as compared to those of the saline-injected control animals. Light microscopic studies of the testis in the lithium-treated animals showed a wide range of degenerative changes. These included a) a significant reduction in the diameter of seminiferous tubules; b) necrosis and exfoliation of most of the germ cells in the seminiferous tubular lumen with the exception of the spermatogonia; and c) a significant reduction in the number of mature spermatozoa in the tubular lumen. These degenerative changes were dependent on the duration of lithium treatment and were evident when the plasma lithium concentrations were well below the human therapeutic range. Leydig cell morphology was not affected by lithium however. Our results provide the first experimental evidence of lithium's adverse reproductive function in an avian species. These data provide further support to the view that lithium adversely affects the male reproductive system and that these effects extend beyond mammalian species.
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