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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 May 6;354(1-2):111-20. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2011.10.020. Epub 2011 Oct 28.

Gene-environment interactions: the potential role of contaminants in somatic growth and the development of the reproductive system of the American alligator.

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Department of Biology, 220 Bartram Hall, P.O. Box 118525, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-8525, USA.


Developing organisms interpret and integrate environmental signals to produce adaptive phenotypes that are prospectively suited for probable demands in later life. This plasticity can be disrupted when embryos are impacted by exogenous contaminants, such as environmental pollutants, producing potentially deleterious and long-lasting mismatches between phenotype and the future environment. We investigated the ability for in ovo environmental contaminant exposure to alter the growth trajectory and ovarian function of alligators at five months after hatching. Alligators collected as eggs from polluted Lake Apopka, FL, hatched with smaller body masses but grew faster during the first five months after hatching, as compared to reference-site alligators. Further, ovaries from Lake Apopka alligators displayed lower basal expression levels of inhibin beta A mRNA as well as decreased responsiveness of aromatase and follistatin mRNA expression levels to treatment with follicle stimulating hormone. We posit that these differences predispose these animals to increased risks of disease and reproductive dysfunction at adulthood.

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