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Environ Health Perspect. 1999 Nov;107(11):861-6.

Sexual behavior in Japanese quail as a test end point for endocrine disruption: effects of in ovo exposure to ethinylestradiol and diethylstilbestrol.

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Department of Environmental Toxicology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.


Chemicals having a capacity to disturb the endocrine system have attracted considerable interest during recent years. There is a shortage of well-characterized in vivo tests with which to study such disturbances in different classes of vertebrates. In the present study, test end points related to reproduction in the Japanese quail were used to examine the estrogenic activity of chemicals. The synthetic estrogens ethinylestradiol (EE(2)) and diethylstilbestrol (DES), used as model compounds, were injected into the yolk of embryonated eggs. After the birds had been raised to sexual maturity, we examined sexual behavior, plasma testosterone concentrations, and testis morphology in adult males. The lowest doses resulting in a significantly depressed male sexual behavior were 6 ng/g egg for EE(2) and 19 ng/g egg for DES. Testis weight asymmetry was increased at 6 ng EE(2)/g egg, but DES had no effect at any treatment level. The area of the androgen-dependent cloacal gland was significantly reduced at 57 ng DES/g egg. No effects on plasma testosterone concentration or body weight following exposure to EE(2) or DES were observed at any dose level. Depressed male sexual behavior was the most sensitive of the end points studied, and we suggest that this ecologically relevant end point be included in avian in vivo testing for neuroendocrine disruptors.

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