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Toxicol Sci. 2007 Apr;96(2):335-45. Epub 2007 Jan 11.

Prenatal testosterone exposure permanently masculinizes anogenital distance, nipple development, and reproductive tract morphology in female Sprague-Dawley rats.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27695, USA.


In mammals, abnormal increases in fetal androgens disrupt normal development of the female phenotype. Due to the recent concern regarding environmental androgen-active chemicals, there is a need to identify sources of fetal androgen variation and sensitive developmental markers for androgenic activity in female rats. Anogenital distances (AGD), nipple retention, reproductive tract, and external genitalia are morphological parameters organized by prenatal androgens and are predictive of altered masculinized/defeminized phenotype in adult female mice and rats. The objectives of this study were to (1) characterize the natural prenatal androgen environment of rats including the magnitude of the intrauterine position (IUP) effect, (2) characterize the permanent effects of prenatal androgen exposure on female rats, and (3) determine the ability of AGD and areolas to predict these permanent androgenic alterations in female rats. Untreated male fetal rats had higher tissue testosterone (T) concentrations than females in the amniotic fluid, reproductive tract, gonad, and fetal body. The intrauterine position (IUP) of male and female fetuses did not affect T concentrations or AGD in male or female rats at gestational day (GD) 22. Female offspring exposed to 0, 1.5, and 2.5 mg/kg/day testosterone propionate (TP) on GDs 14-18 displayed increased AGD at postnatal day (PND) 2 and decreased nipples at PND 13 and as adults. TP-induced changes in neonatal AGD and infant areola number were reliable indicators of permanently altered adult phenotype in female rats. Further, females in the two high-dose groups displayed increased incidences of external genital malformations and the presence of prostatic tissue, not normally found in female rats.

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