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Steroids. 2007 Feb;72(2):124-34. Epub 2006 Dec 18.

Xenoestrogens are potent activators of nongenomic estrogenic responses.

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  • 1Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Department, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 77555-0645, United States. <>


Studies of the nuclear transcriptional regulatory activities of non-physiological estrogens have not explained their actions in mediating endocrine disruption in animals and humans at the low concentrations widespread in the environment. However, xenoestrogens have rarely been tested for their ability to participate in the plethora of nongenomic steroid signaling pathways elucidated over the last several years. Here we review what is known about such responses in comparison to our recent evidence that xenoestrogens can rapidly and potently elicit signaling through nongenomic pathways culminating in functional endpoints. Both estradiol (E(2)) and compounds representing various classes of xenoestrogens (diethylstilbestrol, coumestrol, bisphenol A, DDE, nonylphenol, endosulfan, and dieldrin) act via a membrane version of the estrogen receptor-alpha on pituitary cells, and can provoke Ca(2+) influx via L-type channels, leading to prolactin (PRL) secretion. These hormones and mimetics can also cause the oscillating activation of extracellular regulated kinases (ERKs). However, individual estrogen mimetics differ in their potency and temporal phasing of these activations compared to each other and to E(2). It is perhaps in these ways that they disrupt some endocrine functions when acting in combination with physiological estrogens. Our quantitative assays allow comparison of these outcomes for each mimetic, and let us build a detailed picture of alternative signaling pathway usage. Such an understanding should allow us to determine the estrogenic or antiestrogenic potential of different types of xenoestrogens, and help us to develop strategies for preventing xenoestrogenic disruption of estrogen action in many tissues.

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