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J Reprod Dev. 2007 Apr;53(2):333-44. Epub 2006 Dec 27.

Gestational exposure to nonylphenol causes precocious mammary gland development in female rat offspring.

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Endocrine Toxicology Team, National Institute of Toxicological Research, Korea Food and Drug Administration, Seoul, Korea.


This study examined whether or not exposure to 4-nonylphenol (NP) during late gestation affects reproductive and mammary development in the offspring of female rats. Time pregnant Long Evans rats were gavaged with NP (10 or 100 mg/kg), atrazine (ATR, 100 mg/kg), or corn oil on gestation days 15-19. The uterus weights of the NP (100 mg/kg/d)-exposed pups were higher than those of the controls but the weights of the other organs were unchanged. Delayed mammary gland (MG) development was detected in the ATR pups on PND 4 and persisted through to PND 66. The high dose NP pups had advanced lobular development of their MG on PND 22, while the glands from the low dose NP pups were no different morphologically from the controls. Immunohistochemical comparisons of the mammary sections from PND 41 demonstrated low levels of estrogen receptor (ER) staining in the control gland stroma and epithelium but higher levels in the tissue of the pups exposed to NP and ATR. ATR also elevated ER in the stroma surrounding the epithelial layer of the terminal end buds. The level of progesterone receptor (PR) staining was markedly lower in the epithelium of the 100 mg/kg NP glands vs. the control glands. However, PR was present at high levels in the epithelium of the 10 mg/kg NP glands and was even more prominent in the ATR-exposed ductal epithelium and fat cell nuclei. The level of prolactin staining was only elevated in glands containing lobule areas (NP-exposed) compared with the control levels. These results suggest that NP and ATR have opposite effects on the development of MG after gestational exposure. Exposure to them during the critical period of epithelial outgrowth altered the receptor levels of mammary progesterone and prolactin and might contribute to the differences in the mammary morphology at PND 41.

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