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Toxicol Sci. 2000 Dec;58(2):350-65.

Perinatal exposure to the phthalates DEHP, BBP, and DINP, but not DEP, DMP, or DOTP, alters sexual differentiation of the male rat.

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Endocrinology Branch, MD 72, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Reproductive Toxicology Division, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711, USA.


In mammals, exposure to antiandrogenic chemicals during sexual differentiation can produce malformations of the reproductive tract. Perinatal administration of AR antagonists like vinclozolin and procymidone or chemicals like di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) that inhibit fetal testicular testosterone production demasculinize the males such that they display reduced anogenital distance (AGD), retained nipples, cleft phallus with hypospadias, undescended testes, a vaginal pouch, epididymal agenesis, and small to absent sex accessory glands as adults. In addition to DEHP, di-n-butyl (DBP) also has been shown to display antiandrogenic activity and induce malformations in male rats. In the current investigation, we examined several phthalate esters to determine if they altered sexual differentiation in an antiandrogenic manner. We hypothesized that the phthalate esters that altered testis function in the pubertal male rat would also alter testis function in the fetal male and produce malformations of androgen-dependent tissues. In this regard, we expected that benzyl butyl (BBP) and diethylhexyl (DEHP) phthalate would alter sexual differentiation, while dioctyl tere- (DOTP or DEHT), diethyl (DEP), and dimethyl (DMP) phthalate would not. We expected that the phthalate mixture diisononyl phthalate (DINP) would be weakly active due to the presence of some phthalates with a 6-7 ester group. DEHP, BBP, DINP, DEP, DMP, or DOTP were administered orally to the dam at 0.75 g/kg from gestational day (GD) 14 to postnatal day (PND) 3. None of the treatments induced overt maternal toxicity or reduced litter sizes. While only DEHP treatment reduced maternal weight gain during the entire dosing period by about 15 g, both DEHP and DINP reduced pregnancy weight gain to GD 21 by 24 g and 14 g, respectively. DEHP and BBP treatments reduced pup weight at birth (15%). Male (but not female) pups from the DEHP and BBP groups displayed shortened AGDs (about 30%) and reduced testis weights (about 35%). As infants, males in the DEHP, BBP, and DINP groups displayed femalelike areolas/nipples (87, 70, and 22% (p < 0.01), respectively, versus 0% in other groups). All three of the phthalate treatments that induced areolas also induced a significant incidence of reproductive malformations. The percentages of males with malformations were 82% (p < 0.0001) for DEHP, 84% (p < 0.0001) for BBP, and 7.7% (p < 0.04) in the DINP group. In summary, DEHP, BBP, and DINP all altered sexual differentiation, whereas DOTP, DEP, and DMP were ineffective at this dose. Whereas DEHP and BBP were of equivalent potency, DINP was about an order of magnitude less active.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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