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Reprod Toxicol. 2001 Nov-Dec;15(6):647-63.

Effects of dietary genistein exposure during development on male and female CD (Sprague-Dawley) rats.

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Division of Biochemical Toxicology, NCTR, Jefferson, AR, USA.


Genistein is a naturally occurring isoflavone that interacts with estrogen receptors and multiple other molecular targets. Human exposure to genistein is predominantly through consumption of soy products, including soy-based infant formula and dietary supplements. A dose range-finding study was conducted as a prelude to a multigeneration bioassay to assess potential toxicities associated with genistein consumption. Genistein was administered in a soy- and alfalfa-free diet at 0, 5, 25, 100, 250, 625, or 1250 ppm to pregnant dams starting on Gestation day 7 and continuing throughout pregnancy. Dietary exposure of the dams continued through lactation, and pups were maintained on the same dosed feed as their mother after weaning until sacrifice at Postnatal day 50. Body weight and feed consumption of the treated dams prior to parturition showed a decreasing trend with a significant reduction at the highest dose. Litter birth weight was depressed in the 1250 ppm dose group, and pups of both sexes in that dose group had significantly decreased body weights relative to controls at the time of sacrifice. The most pronounced organ weight effects in the pups were decreased ventral prostate weight in males at the 1250 ppm dose and a trend toward higher pituitary gland to body weight ratios in both sexes. Histopathologic examination of female pups revealed ductal/alveolar hyperplasia of the mammary glands at 250 to 1250 ppm. Ductal/alveolar hyperplasia and hypertrophy also occurred in males, with significant effects seen at 25 ppm and above. Abnormal cellular maturation in the vagina was observed at 625 and 1250 ppm, and abnormal ovarian antral follicles were observed at 1250 ppm. In males, aberrant or delayed spermatogenesis in the seminiferous tubules relative to controls was observed at 1250 ppm. There was a deficit of sperm in the epididymis at 625 and 1250 ppm relative to controls, although testicular spermatid head counts and epididymal spermatozoa counts did not show significant differences from controls at these doses. Both sexes showed an increase in the incidence and/or severity of renal tubal mineralization at doses of 250 ppm and above. Dietary genistein thus produced effects in multiple estrogen-sensitive tissues in males and females that are generally consistent with its estrogenic activity. These effects occurred within exposure ranges achievable in humans.

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