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Chemosphere. 2011 Dec;85(11):1701-6. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.09.015. Epub 2011 Oct 19.

The constitutively active Ah receptor (CA-AhR) mouse as a model for dioxin exposure - effects in reproductive organs.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


The dioxin/aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) mediates most toxic effects of dioxins. In utero/lactational exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) impairs fetal/neonatal development and the developing male reproductive tract are among the most sensitive tissues. TCDD causes antiestrogenic responses in rodent mammary gland and uterus and in human breast cancer cell lines in the presence of estrogen. Also, more recently an estrogen-like effect of TCDD/AhR has been suggested in the absence of estrogen. A transgenic mouse expressing a constitutively active AhR (CA-AhR) was developed as a model mimicking a situation of constant exposure to AhR agonists. Male and female reproductive tissues of CA-AhR mice were characterized for some of the effects commonly seen after dioxin exposure. Sexually mature CA-AhR female mice showed decreased uterus weight, while an uterotrophic assay in immature CA-AhR mice resulted in increased uterus weight. In immature mice, both TCDD-exposure and CA-AhR increased the expression of the estrogen receptor target gene Cathepsin D. When co-treated with 17β-estradiol no increase in Cathepsin D levels occurred in either TCDD-exposed or CA-AhR mice. In sexually mature male CA-AhR mice the weights of testis and ventral prostate were decreased and the epididymal sperm reserve was reduced. The results of the present study are in accordance with previous studies on dioxin-exposed rodents in that an activated AhR (here CA-AhR) leads to antiestrogenic effects in the presence of estrogen, but to estrogenic effects in the absence of estrogen. These results suggest the CA-AhR mouse model as a useful tool for studies of continuous low activity of the AhR from early development, resembling the human exposure situation.

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