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Brain Res Rev. 2008 Mar;57(2):376-85. Epub 2007 Sep 19.

Neuroendocrine and behavioral effects of embryonic exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in birds.

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Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742, USA.


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) exert hormone-like activity in vertebrates and exposure to these compounds may induce both short- and long-term deleterious effects including functional alterations that contribute to decreased reproduction and fitness. An overview of the effects of a number of EDCs, including androgenic and estrogenic compounds, will be considered. Many studies have been conducted in the precocial Japanese quail, which provides an excellent avian model for testing these compounds. Long-term impacts have also been studied by raising a subset of animals through maturation. The EDCs examined included estradiol, androgen active compounds, soy phytoestrogens, and atrazine. Effects on behavior and hypothalamic neuroendocrine systems were examined. All EDCs impaired reproduction, regardless of potential mechanism of action. Male sexual behavior proved to be a sensitive index of EDC exposure and embryonic exposure to a variety of EDCs consistently resulted in impaired male sexual behavior. Several hypothalamic neural systems proved to be EDC responsive, including arginine vasotocin (VT), catecholamines, and gonadotropin releasing hormone system (GnRH-I). Finally, EDCs are known to impact both the immune and thyroid systems; these effects are significant for assessing the overall impact of EDCs on the fitness of avian populations. Therefore, exposure to EDCs during embryonic development has consequences beyond impaired function of the reproductive axis. In conclusion, behavioral alterations have the advantage of revealing both direct and indirect effects of exposure to an EDC and in some cases can provide a valuable clue into functional deficits at different physiological levels.

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