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Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Jan;105(1):70-6.

Relative binding affinity-serum modified access (RBA-SMA) assay predicts the relative in vivo bioactivity of the xenoestrogens bisphenol A and octylphenol.

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Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia 65211, USA.


We have developed a relative binding affinity-serum modified access (RBA-SMA) assay to determine the effect of serum on the access of xenoestrogens to estrogen receptors within intact cultured MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. We used this assay to predict low dose activity of two xenoestrogens in mice. In serum-free medium, bisphenol A, a component of polycarbonates and of resins used to line metal food cans, showed a lower relative binding affinity (RBA; 0.006%) than octylphenol (0.072%) and nonylphenol (0.026%), which are used as surfactants in many commercial products (all RBAs are relative to estradiol, which is equal to 100%). In 100% serum from adult men, bisphenol A showed a higher RBA (0.01%) than in serum-free medium and thus enhanced access to estrogen receptors relative to estradiol. In contrast, octylphenol showed a 22-fold decrease in RBA (0.0029%) and nonylphenol showed a 5-fold decrease in RBA (0.0039%) when measured in adult serum. This indicates that, relative to estradiol, serum had less of an inhibitory effect on the cell uptake and binding in MCF-7 cells of bisphenol A, while serum had a greater inhibitory effect on octylphenol and nonylphenol relative to estradiol. Extrapolation of these relative activities in adult serum predicted that the estrogenic bioactivity of bisphenol A would be over 500-fold greater than that of octylphenol in fetal mouse serum. Bisphenol A and octylphenol were fed to pregnant mice at 2 and 20 micrograms/kg/day. Exposure of male mouse fetuses to either dose of bisphenol A, but to neither dose of octylphenol, significantly increased their adult prostate weight relative to control males, which is consistent with the higher predicted bioactivity of bisphenol A than octylphenol in the RBA-SMA assay. In addition, our findings show for the first time that fetal exposure to environmentally relevant parts-per-billion (ppb) doses of bisphenol A, in the range currently being consumed by people, can alter the adult reproductive system in mice.

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