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Reproduction. 2001 Dec;122(6):857-64.

Alterations in development of reproductive and endocrine systems of wildlife populations exposed to endocrine-disrupting contaminants.

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Department of Zoology, 223 Bartram Hall, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA.


Wildlife and human populations are affected by contaminants in natural settings. This problem has been a growing concern over the last decade with the realization that various environmental chemicals can alter the development and functioning of endocrine organs, cells and target tissues. Documented disruptions or alterations in reproductive activity, morphology or physiology in wildlife populations have been correlated with contaminant-induced modifications in endocrine system functioning. Alterations of the endocrine system are complex, and not limited to a particular organ or molecular mechanism. For instance, contaminants have been shown to (1) act as hormone receptor agonists or antagonists, (2) alter hormone production at its endocrine source, (3) alter the release of stimulatory or inhibitory hormones from the pituitary or hypothalamus, (4) alter hepatic enzymatic biotransformation of hormones, and (5) alter the concentration or functioning of serum-binding proteins, altering free hormone concentrations in the serum. This review focuses on two of these alterations, altered hormone synthesis and hepatic biotransformation, as a number of recent studies indicate that these actions are important components of endocrine disruption in developing organisms. The possible role of contaminants in altering sex determination mechanisms is also examined.

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