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Toxicol Sci. 2002 Jan;65(1):71-86.

Effects of prenatal testosterone propionate on the sexual development of male and female rats: a dose-response study.

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1
Reproductive Toxicology Division, Endocrinology Branch, MD 72, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 86 Alexander Drive, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711, USA.

Abstract

Testosterone plays a major role in male sexual development. Exposure of females to testosterone in utero can induce masculine characteristics such as anovulation, increased anogenital distance (AGD), absence of nipples, retention of male-like tissues, and agenesis of the lower vagina. In addition, high levels of androgens during fetal development can lead to toxic effects such as reduced litter size and viability. The study of the effects of testosterone administration during sexual differentiation provides a foundation for understanding the effects of environmental androgens on fetuses, a sensitive subpopulation. In the current study, we investigated the ability of a range of concentrations of testosterone propionate (TP) administered prenatally to masculinize female and alter male offspring, and measured maternal and fetal T levels. Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats were dosed by sc injection on gestational day (GD) 14-19 (GD 1= day of plug) with either corn oil (vehicle; 0.1 ml/rat) or with 0.1 ml of TP solution at 0.1, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, or 10 mg/0.1 ml. Parturition was delayed at 2, 5, and 10 mg TP, litter size was reduced at 5 and 10 mg TP, and pup weight was significantly reduced in both sexes at 0.5 mg TP and higher doses. Viability of offspring was unaffected at any dosage level. Androgenic effects seen at 0.5 mg TP in females included increased AGD at weaning and adulthood, reduced number of areolas and nipples, cleft phallus, small vaginal orifice, and presence of prostate tissue. This dose of TP elevated maternal T levels 10x but had no effect on fetal T levels. At 1 mg TP and above, female AGD on postnatal day (PND) 2 (or postcoital day 24 [gestation length = 22(1/2)]) was increased; areolas and nipples were virtually eliminated; levator ani muscle, bulbourethral glands, and seminal vesicles (2 mg TP and above) were present; none of the females developed a vaginal orifice and many females in the 1 and 2 mg TP dose groups developed a greatly distended, fluid-filled uterus after puberty. Maternal T levels at 1 mg TP were elevated 30x, and female fetal T levels showed an 80% increase. Male offspring displayed a reduced AGD and body weight on PND 2 at 0.5 mg TP and higher doses. These effects were not evident by weaning and male offspring displayed no malformations. We conclude that gestational administration of 0.5 and 1 mg TP masculinizes female offspring without greatly affecting pup viability or pregnancy of the dam. This study provides a useful model for in utero testing of environmental androgens for their potential to induce developmental abnormalities.

PMID:
11752687
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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