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Cancer Res. 2013 Jan 15;73(2):908-17. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-3636. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Glutathione-deficient mice have increased sensitivity to transplacental benzo[a]pyrene-induced premature ovarian failure and ovarian tumorigenesis.

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Department of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) such as benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) are ubiquitous environmental pollutants found in tobacco smoke, air pollution, and grilled foods. Prenatal exposure to BaP causes premature reproductive senescence in mice, and other PAHs are transplacental ovarian carcinogens. Glutathione (GSH) is critical for detoxification of the reactive metabolites of PAHs. Therefore, we hypothesized that mice that are genetically deficient in GSH synthesis, due to deletion of the modifier subunit of glutamate cysteine ligase (Gclm), the rate-limiting enzyme in GSH synthesis, have increased destruction of oogonia, premature ovarian failure, and ovarian tumorigenesis after transplacental BaP exposure compared with Gclm(+/+) females. Gclm(+/-) female and male mice were mated, and dams were treated with 0, 2, or 10 mg/kg/d BaP in sesame oil by gavage from gestational days 7 to 16. Compared with oil-treated F1 females of the same genotype, Gclm(-/-) prenatally BaP-treated females had significantly greater decrements in offspring production than Gclm(+/+) BaP-treated females. Similarly, we observed significant BaP dose × Gclm genotype interactions on ovarian follicle counts and ovarian tumor multiplicity at 7.5 months of age, with Gclm(-/-) females having greater decrements in follicle numbers and more ovarian tumors in response to prenatal BaP exposure than Gclm(+/+) females. The ovarian tumors were positive for the epithelial marker cytokeratin. Our results show that prenatal exposure of females to BaP causes premature ovarian failure and ovarian tumorigenesis and that embryonic GSH deficiency due to deletion of Gclm increases sensitivity to these transplacental ovarian effects of BaP.

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