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Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Feb;56(1):36-44.

Estrogens and environmental estrogens.

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Laboratoire de Pharmacologie Cellulaire & Moléculaire, CNRS UMR 8612, Université de Paris Sud, Faculté de Pharmacie, Chatenay Malabry, France.


The natural female sex hormone estrogens binds once inside the cell to a protein receptor to form a 'ligand-hormone receptor complex'. The binding activates the hormone receptor, which triggers specific cellular processes. The activated hormone receptor then turns on specific genes, causing cellular changes that lead to responses typical of a ligand-hormone receptor complex. Estrogens (especially estradiol) bring out the feminine characteristics, control reproductive cycles and pregnancy, influence skin, bone, the cardiovascular system and immunity. Natural hormones are more potent than any of the known synthetic environmental estrogens (except drugs such as diethylstilbestrol [DES]). Estrogen production varies according to different factors (gender, age and reproductive cycles). Women produce more estrogen than men and the production is more abundant during fetal development than in the postmenopausal period. Most natural estrogens are short-lived, do not accumulate in tissue and are easily broken down in the liver. In contrast to natural estrogens, estrogenic drugs such as ethynylestradiol diethylstilbestrol (DES), synthetic environmental estrogens such as beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), o, p, p'DDT, 4-nonylphenol (NP) and phytoestrogens such as isoflavones or lignans, are more stable and remain in the body longer than natural estrogens. Because most of these compounds are lipophilic, they tend to accumulate within the fat and tissue of animals and humans. Thus, depending on the natural estrogen levels, environmental estrogens may have different influences (mimicking, blocking or cancelling out estrogen's effects) on estrogen activities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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