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Reprod Toxicol. 1988;2(3-4):281-7.

The development of a protocol to assess reproductive effects of toxicants in the rat.

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Developmental Reproductive Biology, Endocrinology & Gerontology Section, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27111.


The determination that a chemical poses a reproductive risk to man typically relies upon fertility studies using rodents. However, fertility in rodents is often difficult to disrupt and more sensitive indicators of reproductive function should be included in the risk assessment process. The present discussion compares the sensitivity of fertility to other endpoints following exposure to known reproductive toxicants. In our studies rats were dosed from weaning through puberty , gestation, and lactation. The reproductive function of the male, the female, and the offspring was assessed. The effects of methoxychlor, carbendazim (MBC), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and lindane are discussed and compared to fertility. For each compound a ratio (SR = sensitivity ratio) of the lowest effect level (LEL) for infertility or reduced fecundity to the LEL for the most sensitive physiologic endpoint was calculated. The SR should be large when a compound produces effects over a wide range of doses, but should equal unity when the dose-response curve is very steep. For methoxychlor, which blocked implantation, pubertal landmarks and estrous cyclicity provided rapid and sensitive indicators of the subsequent reproductive failure. The SR = 8 (100/12) for methoxychlor using data from females. In contrast, DBP and MBC directly altered testicular function, and for these compounds, sperm and testicular measures provided sensitive indicators of toxicity. The SR for MBC was 2 (100/50), while DBP had a SR of 1 (500/500). In the lindane study, fertility was not reduced but most of the pups (F1) died shortly after birth. The SR for lindane is equal to 0.5 (10/20). At 20 mg/kg the treated females were larger and their estrous cycles were erratic.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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