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Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Dec;104(12):1296-300.

Assessing environmental chemicals for estrogenicity using a combination of in vitro and in vivo assays.

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  • 1Reproductive Toxicology Group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Because of rampant concern that estrogenic chemicals in the environment may be adversely affecting the health of humans and wildlife, reliable methods for detecting and characterizing estrogenic chemicals are needed. It is important that general agreement be reached on which tests to use and that these tests then be applied to the testing of both man-made and naturally occurring chemicals. As a step toward developing a comprehensive approach to screening chemicals for estrogenic activity, three assays for detecting estrogenicity were conducted on 10 chemicals with known or suspected estrogenic activity. The assays were 1) competitive binding with the mouse uterine estrogen receptor, 2) transcriptional activation in HeLa cells transfected with plasmids containing an estrogen receptor and a response element, and 3) the uterotropic assay in mice. The chemicals studied were 17 beta-estradiol, diethylstilbestrol, tamoxifen, 4-hydroxytamoxifen, methoxychlor, the methoxychlor metabolite 2,2-bis(p-hydroxyphenyl)-1,1,1-trichloroethane (HPTE), endosulfan, nonylphenol, o,p'-DDT, and kepone. These studies were conducted to assess the utility of this three-assay combination in the routine screening of chemicals, or combinations of chemicals, for estrogenic activity. Results were consistent among the three assays with respect to what is known about the estrogenic activities of the chemicals tested and their requirements for metabolic activation. By providing information on three levels of hormonal activity (receptor binding, transcriptional activation, and an in vivo effect in an estrogen-responsive tissue), an informative profile of estrogenic activity is obtained with a reasonable investment of resources.

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