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Saniya Rattan, Changqing Zhou, Catheryne Chiang, Sharada Mahalingam, Emily Brehm and Jodi A Flaws

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are ubiquitous chemicals that exhibit endocrine disrupting properties in both humans and animals. Female reproduction is an important process, which is regulated by hormones and is susceptible to the effects of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. Disruptions in female reproductive functions by endocrine disrupting chemicals may result in subfertility, infertility, improper hormone production, estrous and menstrual cycle abnormalities, anovulation, and early reproductive senescence. This review summarizes the effects of a variety of synthetic endocrine disrupting chemicals on fertility during adult life. The chemicals covered in this review are pesticides (organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates, pyrethroids, and triazines), heavy metals (arsenic, lead, and mercury), diethylstilbesterol, plasticizer alternatives (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and bisphenol A alternatives), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, nonylphenol, polychlorinated biphenyls, triclosan, and parabens. This review focuses on the hypothalamus, pituitary, ovary, and uterus because together they regulate normal female fertility and the onset of reproductive senescence. The literature shows that several endocrine disrupting chemicals have endocrine disrupting abilities in females during adult life, causing fertility abnormalities in both humans and animals.

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Hélène Buteau-Lozano, Guillaume Velasco, Monique Cristofari, Patrick Balaguer and Martine Perrot-Applanat

Environmental chemicals may affect human health by disrupting endocrine function. Their possible role in the mammary gland and breast tumors is still unknown. Previous studies have demonstrated that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a key factor in angiogenesis and tumor progression, is an estrogen-regulated gene. We analyzed whether VEGF expression is regulated by different xenoestrogens in several breast cancer cells, MELN (derived from MCF-7) and MELP (derived from MDA-MB-231) and stably expressing estrogen receptor α (ERα); these cell lines stably express estrogen response element (β-globin)-luciferase. Genistein, bisphenol A (BPA), 4-(tert-octyl)phenol (OP), dieldrin, and several phthalates, including benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) and di-ethyl-2-hexyle phthalate (DEHP), were first shown to be estrogenic. These compounds induced a dose-dependent increase of VEGF secretion in MELN and MCF-7 cells; maximal effect was observed at 1–10 μM non-cytotoxic concentrations and was inhibited by the antiestrogen ICI 182 780. VEGF increase was not observed in ERα-negative MDA-MB-231 cells. Most substances increased VEGF transcript levels in MELN cells. In contrast, γ-hexachlorocyclohexane, vinclozolin, and the phthalates (mono-n-butyl ester phthalic acid, di-isononyle phthalate, and di-isodecyle phthalate) were ineffective on both VEGF secretion and estrogenic luciferase induction in these cell lines. Specific kinase inhibitors PD98059, SB203580, or LY294002 suppressed the xenoestrogen-induced VEGF response, suggesting activation of MEK, p38 kinase, and phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathways. Our in vitro results show for the first time that genistein and xenoestrogens (BPA, OP, dieldrin, BBP, and DEHP at high concentrations) up-regulate VEGF expression in MELN cells by an ER-dependent mechanism. Since VEGF increases capillary permeability and breast tumor angiogenesis in vivo, the physiological relevance of these findings is discussed.

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P Sohoni and JP Sumpter

There is presently considerable interest in endocrine disruption which is a new area of endocrinology concerned with chemicals that mimic hormones, in particular sex steroids. It has been hypothesised that exposure to such chemicals may be responsible for adverse effects in both humans and wildlife. Until now, chemicals that mimic oestrogens (so-called xenoestrogens) have been the main focus of endocrine disruption research. However, recent evidence suggests that many abnormalities in the male reproductive system may be mediated via the androgen receptor. By blocking androgen action, exposure to an anti-androgen may cause changes similar to those associated with oestrogen exposure. We have used in vitro yeast-based assays to detect oestrogenic, anti-oestrogenic, androgenic and anti-androgenic activities in a variety of chemicals of current interest. We show that many of the so-called 'environmental oestrogens' also possess anti-androgenic activity. The previously reported anti-androgenic activities of vinclozolin and p,p'-1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl) ethylene (DDE) were confirmed. We also found that o,p'-1,1,1,-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane (DDT), bisphenol A and butyl benzyl phthalate were anti-androgenic. However, not all xenoestrogens are also anti-androgenic, because nonylphenol was found to be a weak androgen agonist. Our results demonstrate that hormone-mimicking chemicals can have multiple hormonal activities, which may make it difficult to interpret their mechanisms of action in vivo. Although not a specific objective of this study, our results also demonstrate that yeast-based assays are powerful tools with which to investigate both agonist and antagonistic hormonal activities of chemicals.

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Liqiong Song, Wei Xia, Zhao Zhou, Yuanyuan Li, Yi Lin, Jie Wei, Zhengzheng Wei, Bing Xu, Jie Shen, Weiyong Li and Shunqing Xu

Phenolic estrogen pollutants, a class of typical endocrine-disrupting chemicals, have attracted public attention due to their estrogenic activities of imitating steroid hormone 17β-estradiol (E2) effects. Exposure to these pollutants may disrupt insulin secretion and be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. In this study, we investigated the direct effects of phenolic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES), octylphenol (OP), nonylphenol (NP), and bisphenol A (BPA) on rat pancreatic islets in vitro, whose estrogenic activities were DES>NP>OP>BPA. Isolated β-cells were exposed to E2, DES, OP, NP, or BPA (0, 0.1, 0.5, 2.5, 25, and 250 μg/l) for 24 h. Parameters of insulin secretion, content, and morphology of β-cells were measured. In the glucose-stimulated insulin secretion test, E2 and DES increased insulin secretion in a dose-dependent manner in a 16.7 mM glucose condition. However, for BPA, NP, or OP with lower estrogenic activity, the relationship between the doses and insulin secretion was an inverted U-shape. Moreover, OP, NP, or BPA (25 μg/l) impaired mitochondrial function in β-cells and induced remarkable swelling of mitochondria with loss of distinct cristae structure within the membrane, which was accompanied by disruption of mRNA expression of genes playing a key role in β-cell function (Glut2 (Slc2a2), Gck, Pdx1, Hnf1 α, Rab27a, and Snap25), and mitochondrial function (Ucp2 and Ogdh). Therefore, these phenolic estrogens can disrupt islet morphology and β-cell function, and mitochondrial dysfunction is suggested to play an important role in the impairment of β-cell function.

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Jie Wei, Xia Sun, Yajie Chen, Yuanyuan Li, Liqiong Song, Zhao Zhou, Bing Xu, Yi Lin and Shunqing Xu

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals, which is present ubiquitously in daily life. Accumulating evidence indicates that exposure to BPA contributes to metabolic syndrome. In this study, we examined whether perinatal exposure to BPA predisposed offspring to fatty liver disease: the hepatic manifestation of metabolic syndrome. Wistar rats were exposed to 50 μg/kg per day BPA or corn oil throughout gestation and lactation by oral gavage. Offspring were fed a standard chow diet (SD) or a high-fat diet (HFD) after weaning. Effects of BPA were assessed by examination of hepatic morphology, biochemical analysis, and the hepatic expression of genes and/or proteins involved in lipogenesis, fatty acid oxidation, gluconeogenesis, insulin signaling, inflammation, and fibrosis. On a SD, the offspring of rats exposed to BPA exhibited moderate hepatic steatosis and altered expression of insulin signaling elements in the liver, but with normal liver function. On a HFD, the offspring of rats exposed to BPA showed a nonalcoholic steatohepatitis-like phenotype, characterized by extensive accumulation of lipids, large lipid droplets, profound ballooning degeneration, impaired liver function, increased inflammation, and even mild fibrosis in the liver. Perinatal exposure to BPA worsened the hepatic damage caused by the HFD in the rat offspring. The additive effects of BPA correlated with higher levels of hepatic oxidative stress. Collectively, exposure to BPA may be a new risk factor for the development of fatty liver disease and further studies should assess whether this finding is also relevant to the human population.

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Shibin Ding, Ying Fan, Nana Zhao, Huiqin Yang, Xiaolei Ye, Dongliang He, Xin Jin, Jian Liu, Chong Tian, Hongyu Li, Shunqing Xu and Chenjiang Ying

Epidemiological findings on the association between bisphenol A (BPA, 2,2-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)propane) exposure and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are paradoxical. In animal studies, BPA has been shown to disrupt pancreatic function and blood glucose homeostasis even at a reference ‘safe’ level during perinatal period. In this study, we explored the effects of long-term paternal exposure to a ‘safe’ level of BPA on parents themselves and their offspring. Adult male genitor rats fed with either standard chow diet (STD) or high-fat diet (HFD) were treated respectively with either vehicle or BPA (50 μg/kg per day) for 35 weeks. The male rats treated with vehicle or BPA for 21 weeks were then used as sires, and the adult female rats were fed with STD during the gestation and lactation. Offspring rats were weaned on postnatal day 21 and fed with STD in later life. Metabolic parameters were recorded on the adult male rats and their adult offspring. BPA exposure disrupted glucose homeostasis and pancreatic function, and HFD aggravated these adverse effects. However, BPA exposure did not alter body weight, body fat percentage, or serum lipid. In addition, the paternal BPA exposure did not cause adverse reproductive consequence or metabolic disorder in the adult offspring. Our findings indicate that chronic exposure to a predicted ‘safe’ dose of BPA contributes to glucose metabolic disorders, and that HFD aggravates these adverse effects in paternal rats.

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Laura Marroqui, Eva Tudurí, Paloma Alonso-Magdalena, Iván Quesada, Ángel Nadal and Reinaldo Sousa dos Santos

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, heterogeneous syndrome characterized by insulin resistance and pancreatic β-cell dysfunction or death. Among several environmental factors contributing to type 2 diabetes development, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been receiving special attention. These chemicals include a wide variety of pollutants, from components of plastic to pesticides, with the ability to modulate endocrine system function. EDCs can affect multiple cellular processes, including some related to energy production and utilization, leading to alterations in energy homeostasis. Mitochondria are primarily implicated in cellular energy conversion, although they also participate in other processes, such as hormone secretion and apoptosis. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction due to reduced oxidative capacity, impaired lipid oxidation and increased oxidative stress has been linked to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Herein, we review the main mechanisms whereby metabolism-disrupting chemical (MDC), a subclass of EDCs that disturbs energy homeostasis, cause mitochondrial dysfunction, thus contributing to the establishment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. We conclude that MDC-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, which is mainly characterized by perturbations in mitochondrial bioenergetics, biogenesis and dynamics, excessive reactive oxygen species production and activation of the mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis, seems to be a relevant mechanism linking MDCs to type 2 diabetes development.

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LP Walsh, DR Webster and DM Stocco

Dimethoate is a widely used organophosphate insecticide that has been shown to disrupt reproductive function in animals. Although the pathogenesis of Dimethoate-induced reproductive toxicity remains to be determined, a reduction in serum testosterone levels is thought to play an important role in the development of Dimethoate-induced infertility. Since Leydig cells play a crucial role in male reproductive function by producing testosterone, the mouse MA-10 Leydig tumor cell line was used to determine if Dimethoate can directly block steroid hormone biosynthesis and to identify the site of steroidogenic inhibition. Dimethoate inhibited steroidogenesis in both a dose- and time-dependent manner without affecting total protein synthesis or protein kinase A activity. While it decreased the activity of the P450 side chain cleavage (P450 scc) enzyme, a reduction in the activity of this enzyme alone could not account for the level of Bu(2)cAMP-inhibited progesterone production. Instead, our results suggest that Dimethoate inhibited steroidogenesis primarily by blocking transcription of the steroidogenic acute regulatory (StAR) gene. This finding is significant since StAR protein mediates the rate-limiting and acutely-regulated step in steroidogenesis, the transfer of cholesterol from the outer to the inner mitochondrial membrane. This study indicates that StAR may be an important target for environmental pollutants which disrupt steroidogenesis and impair reproductive function.

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William Zawatski and Mary M Lee

Endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) are synthetic or natural compounds that interfere with endogenous endocrine action. The frequent use of chemicals with endocrine active properties in household products and contamination of soil, water, and food sources by persistent chemical pollutants result in ubiquitous exposures. Wildlife observations and animal toxicological studies reveal adverse effects of EDCs on reproductive health. In humans, a growing number of epidemiological studies report an association with altered pubertal timing and progression. While these data are primarily reported in females, this review will focus on the small number of studies performed in males that report an association of polychlorinated biphenyls with earlier sexual maturity rating and confirm subtle effects of lead, dioxins, and endosulfan on delaying pubertal onset and progression in boys. Recent studies have also demonstrated that EDC exposure may affect pubertal testosterone production without having a noticeable effect on sexual maturity rating. A limitation to understand the effects of EDCs in humans is the potential for confounding due to the long temporal lag from early-life exposures to adult outcomes. The complex interplay of multiple environmental exposures over time also complicates the interpretation of human studies. These studies have identified critical windows of vulnerability during development when exposures to EDCs alter critical pathways and affect postnatal reproductive health. Contemporaneous exposures can also disrupt the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis. This paper will review the normal process of puberty in males and summarize human data that suggest potential perturbations in pubertal onset and tempo with early-life exposures to EDCs.

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R G Ahmed

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are persistent environmental pollutants that can severely disrupt the endocrine system. In the present study, early-weaned male rats were administered a single dose of 2,3,6-2′,5′-pentachlorinated biphenyl (PCB 95; 32 mg/kg per day, by i.p. injection) for two consecutive days (postnatal days (PNDs) 15 and 16) and killed 24 and 48 h after the administration of the last dose. Compared with the control group, administration of PCB 95 induced a reduction (P<0.01) in serum concentrations of thyroxine, triiodothyronine, and GH and an increase (P<0.01) in the serum concentration of TSH at PNDs 17 and 18. These conspicuous perturbations led to some histopathological deterioration in the thyroid gland characterized by follicular degeneration, edema, fibrosis, hemorrhage, luminal obliteration, and hypertrophy with reduced colloidal contents at PND 18. The dyshormonogenesis and thyroid dysgenesis may be attributed to the elevation of DNA fragmentation at PNDs 17 and 18. Furthermore, this hypothyroid state revealed higher (P<0.01) serum concentrations of leptin, adiponectin, and tumor necrosis factor and lower (P<0.01) serum concentrations of IGF1 and insulin at both PNDs compared with the control group. Interestingly, the body weight of the neonates in the PCB 95 group exhibited severe decreases throughout the experimental period in relation to that of the control group. These results imply that PCB 95 may act as a disruptor of the developmental hypothalamic–pituitary–thyroid axis. Hypothyroidism caused by PCB 95 may impair the adipokine axis, fat metabolism, and in general postnatal development. Thus, further studies need to be carried out to understand this concept.