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Toxicol Sci. 2001 Mar;60(1):132-43.

Maternal exposure to a low dose of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) suppressed the development of reproductive organs of male rats: dose-dependent increase of mRNA levels of 5alpha-reductase type 2 in contrast to decrease of androgen receptor in the pubertal ventral prostate.

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Environmental Health Sciences Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0053, Japan.


To assess the health risks associated with exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodebenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), we studied the effects of a relatively low dose of TCDD on the male reproductive system of rats, using the experimental protocol of T. A. Mably et al. (1992, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 114, 97-107, 108-117, 118-126), and searched for the most sensitive and reliable among several indices of TCDD toxicity. Pregnant Holtzman rats were given a single oral dose of 0, 12.5, 50, 200, or 800 ng TCDD/kg body weight on gestational day (GD) 15, and male offspring were sacrificed on postnatal day (PND) 49 or 120. GC-MS analysis of the abdominal fat tissue and testis clearly showed increased amounts of TCDD in these offspring. However, there was no TCDD effect on body weight of offspring. There were no changes on testicular or epididymal weights by TCDD administration, even at the 800-ng/kg dose in rats sacrificed on either PND 49 or 120. In addition, TCDD administration resulted in no changes in daily sperm production or sperm reserve at any of the doses used. However, the weight of the urogenital complex, including the ventral prostate, was significantly reduced at doses of 200 and 800 ng TCDD/kg in rats sacrificed on PND 120. Moreover, the anogenital distance (AGD) of male rats sacrificed on PND 120 showed a significant decrease in the groups receiving doses greater than 50 ng TCDD/kg. TCDD administration resulted in no apparent dose-dependent changes in levels of either serum testosterone or luteinizing hormone. Interestingly, reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis revealed that, in the ventral prostates of the PND 49 group, TCDD administration resulted in both a dose-dependent increase in 5alpha-reductase type 2 (5alphaR-II) mRNA level and a dose-dependent decrease in androgen receptor (AR) mRNA level. These results suggest that low-dose TCDD administration had a greater effect on the development of the external genital organs and ventral prostate than on development of the testis and other internal genital organs. Moreover, it is highly suggested that the decrease in the size of the ventral prostate by maternal TCDD exposure might be due to decreased responsiveness of the prostate to androgen due to an insufficient expression level of androgen receptor during puberty.

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