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Biol Reprod. 1991 Oct;45(4):649-53.

The effect of neonatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol, genistein, and zearalenone on pituitary responsiveness and sexually dimorphic nucleus volume in the castrated adult rat.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


The neonatal hormone environment determines the sexually differentiated pattern of brain growth. Estrogens, derived from intracerebral aromatization of testosterone, promote male sexual central nervous system (CNS) development. Developing animals may also encounter estrogens from plant, fungal, and xenobiotic sources (environmental estrogens). The purpose of this study was to assess the effects of environmental estrogens on the physiology and morphology of the hypothalamus and pituitary. Neonatal rats received injections of either corn oil, 0.1 microgram diethylstilbestrol (DES), 100 micrograms genistein (G100), 1000 micrograms genistein (G1000), 100 micrograms zearalenone (Z100), or 1000 micrograms zearalenone (Z1000) on Days 1-10 of life and were castrated on Day 21. On Day 42, right heart catheters were placed, GnRH (50 ng/kg) was administered, and blood was sampled for LH at 0, 5, 10, 15, and 30 min. Females exposed neonatally to DES, G1000, Z100, and Z1000 showed significantly decreased pituitary responsiveness to GnRH, whereas G100 increased GnRH-induced LH secretion. Males exposed neonatally to G100 also showed increased pituitary response to GnRH, and the remaining estrogen-exposed groups of males exhibited either decreased tonic LH or attenuated GnRH-stimulated LH secretion. The animals were killed by decapitation on Day 49. Volumes of the sexually dimorphic nucleus of the preoptic area (SDN-POA) of the exposed groups were compared. In females, DES, G1000, and Z1000 increased SDN volume; Z100 and G100 had no effect. There was no difference in SDN size among the male groups. These data show that exposure to environmental estrogens early in development alters postpubertal pituitary response to GnRH and "androgenizes" the SDN-POA.

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