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Int J Androl. 2006 Feb;29(1):140-7; discussion 181-5. Epub 2005 Aug 11.

Disruption of reproductive development in male rat offspring following in utero exposure to phthalate esters.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


Certain Phthalate esters have been shown to produce reproductive toxicity in male rodents with an age dependent sensitivity in effects with foetal animals being more sensitive than neonates which are in turn more sensitive than pubertal and adult animals. While the testicular effects of phthalates in rats have been known for more than 30 years, recent attention has been focused on the ability of these agents to produce effects on reproductive development in male offspring after in utero exposure. These esters and in particular di-butyl, di-(2-ethylhexyl) and butyl benzyl phthalates have been shown to produce a syndrome of reproductive abnormalities characterized by malformations of the epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, prostate, external genitalia (hypospadias), cryptorchidism and testicular injury together with permanent changes (feminization) in the retention of nipples/areolae (sexually dimorphic structures in rodents) and demasculinization of the growth of the perineum resulting in a reduced anogenital distance (AGD). Critical to the induction of these effects is a marked reduction in foetal testicular testosterone production at the critical window for the development of the reproductive tract normally under androgen control. A second Leydig cell product, insl3, is also significantly down regulated and is likely responsible for the cryptorchidism commonly seen in these phthalate-treated animals. The testosterone decrease is mediated by changes in gene expression of a number of enzymes and transport proteins involved in normal testosterone biosynthesis and transport in the foetal Leydig cell. Alterations in the foetal seminiferous cords are also noted after in utero phthalate treatment with the induction of multinucleate gonocytes that contribute to lowered spermatocyte numbers in postnatal animals. The phthalate syndrome of effects on reproductive development has parallels with the reported human testicular dysgenesis syndrome, although no cause and effect relationship exists after exposure of humans to phthalate esters. However humans are exposed to and produce the critical phthalate metabolites that have been detected in blood of the general population, in children and also human amniotic fluid.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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