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Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2012 Nov;156(3-4):202-10. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jun 9.

Effects of 17α-ethynylestradiol on sexual differentiation and development of the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis).

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  • 1Toxicology Centre, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.


Several studies have shown that exposure of amphibians, including the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), to potent estrogens at critical times during development results in feminization and/or demasculinization. However, genotyping of X. laevis has only recently become possible, so studies performed in the past were rarely able to make explicit linkages between genetic and phenotypic sex. Therefore, to further characterize this relationship, X. laevis tadpoles were exposed during development to 0.09, 0.84, or 8.81 μg/L 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), which is the estrogen analog commonly used in oral contraceptives. Exposure to all concentrations of EE2 tested resulted in significant delays in time to metamorphosis. Genotyping showed that genetic sex ratios were similar among treatments. However, morphological evaluation revealed that a significant number of individuals with a male genotype displayed mixed sex and abnormal phenotypes. Additionally, both genetic males and females exposed to EE2 exhibited greater presence of vitellogenin protein relative to the respective controls. Since estrogens function downstream of the initial molecular signals of sexual differentiation, it is likely that genetic male animals received mixed endogenous male and exogenous female signals that caused disordered sexual development. The production of vitellogenin was probably temporally separated and independent from primary effects on sexual differentiation, and might have contributed to delays in metamorphosis observed in individuals exposed to EE2.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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