Gestational exposures to estrogenic compounds, both endogenous hormones and exogenous endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), have long-term effects on reproductive physiology and behavior. We tested the hypothesis that prenatal treatment of rats with low doses of Aroclor 1221 (A1221), a weakly estrogenic polychlorinated biphenyl mix previously used in industry, or estradiol benzoate (EB), alters development of the hypothalamus in a sexually dimorphic manner and subsequently perturbs reproductive function. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were injected on embryonic days 16 and 18 with vehicle (dimethylsulfoxide), A1221 (1 mg/kg), or EB (50 μg/kg). Developmental milestones were monitored, and on postnatal days 15, 30, 45, and 90, 1 male and 1 female per litter were euthanized. Because of their key roles in the mediation of steroid actions on reproductive function, the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV) and the arcuate nucleus (ARC) were punched for a low-density quantitative PCR array of 48 neuroendocrine genes and analysis of DNA methylation of a subset of genes. Gestational exposure to A1221 or EB delayed the timing of puberty in males and disrupted estrous cyclicity in females. In the AVPV, 28 genes were affected by treatment in a developmental stage-specific manner, mostly in females, which exhibited a masculinized expression profile. This included 2 clock genes, Per2 and Arntl, implicating circadian circuits as being vulnerable to endocrine disruption. DNA methylation analysis of 2 genes, Per2 and Ar, showed no effect of EDCs and suggested alternative mechanisms for the altered mRNA levels. In the ARC, 12 genes were affected by treatment, mostly in males, again with dynamic developmental changes. Bionetwork analysis of relationships among genes, hormones, and physiological markers showed sexually dimorphic effects of estrogenic EDC exposures, with the female AVPV and the male ARC being most vulnerable, and provided novel relationships among hypothalamic genes and postnatal reproductive maturation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology