Prenatal exposure to excess androgen may result in impaired adult fertility in a variety of mammalian species. However, little is known about what feedback mechanisms regulate gonadotropin secretion during early gestation and how they respond to excess T exposure. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of exogenous exposure to T on key genes that regulate gonadotropin and GnRH secretion in fetal male lambs as compared with female cohorts. We found that biweekly maternal testosterone propionate (100 mg) treatment administered from day 30 to day 58 of gestation acutely decreased (P < .05) serum LH concentrations and reduced the expression of gonadotropin subunitmRNAin both sexesandthe levels ofGnRHreceptormRNAin males. These results are consistent with enhanced negative feedback at the level of the pituitary and were accompanied by reducedmRNAlevels for testicular steroidogenic enzymes, suggesting that Leydig cell function was also suppressed. The expression of kisspeptin 1 mRNA, a key regulator of GnRH neurons, was significantly greater (P<.01) in control females than in males and reduced (P<.001) in females by T exposure, indicating that hypothalamic regulation of gonadotropin secretion was also affected by androgen exposure. Although endocrine homeostasis was reestablished 2 weeks after maternal testosterone propionate treatment ceased, additional differences in the gene expression of GnRH, estrogen receptor β and kisspeptin receptor (G protein coupled receptor 54) emerged between the treatment cohorts. These changes suggest the normal trajectory of hypothalamic-pituitary axis development was disrupted, which may, in turn, contribute to negative effects on fertility later in life.
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