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Neurotoxicology. 2011 Jan;32(1):38-49. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2010.07.008. Epub 2010 Aug 7.

The impact of neonatal bisphenol-A exposure on sexually dimorphic hypothalamic nuclei in the female rat.

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Department of Biology, NC State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, United States.


Now under intense scrutiny, due to its endocrine disrupting properties, the potential threat the plastics component bisphenol-A (BPA) poses to human health remains unclear. Found in a multitude of polycarbonate plastics, food and beverage containers, and medical equipment, BPA is thought to bind to estrogen receptors (ERs), thereby interfering with estrogen-dependent processes. Our lab has previously shown that exposure to BPA (50mg/kg bw or 50μg/kg bw) during the neonatal critical period is associated with advancement of puberty, early reproductive senescence and ovarian malformations in female Long Evans rats. Here, using neural tissue obtained from the same animals, we explored the impact of neonatal BPA exposure on the development of sexually dimorphic hypothalamic regions critical for female reproductive physiology and behavior. Endpoints included quantification of oxytocin-immunoreactive neurons (OT-ir) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), serotonin (5-HT-ir) fiber density in the ventrolateral subdivision of the ventromedial nucleus (VMNvl) as well as ERα-ir neuron number in the medial preoptic area (MPOA), the VMNvl, and the arcuate nucleus (ARC). Both doses of BPA increased the number of OT-ir neurons within the PVN, but no significant effects were seen on 5-HT-ir fiber density or ERα-ir neuron number in any of the areas analyzed. In addition to hypothalamic development, we also assessed female sex behavior and body weight. No effect of BPA on sexual receptivity or proceptive behavior in females was observed. Females treated with BPA, however, weighed significantly more than control females by postnatal day 99. This effect of BPA on weight is critical because alterations in metabolism, are frequently associated with reproductive dysfunction. Collectively, the results of this and our prior study indicate that the impact of neonatal BPA exposure within the female rat hypothalamus is region specific and support the hypothesis that developmental BPA exposure may adversely affect reproductive development in females.

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