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J Toxicol Environ Health A. 1999 Jan 8;56(1):23-46.

Endocrine and reproductive function in ewes exposed to the organochlorine pesticides lindane or pentachlorophenol.

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Department of Veterinary Physiological Sciences, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada.


The effects of lindane (LIN, gamma-hexachlorocyclohexane) and pentachlorophenol (PCP) on reproduction and general endocrine function were examined in breeding ewes as a model for wild and domestic ungulates, which may be exposed to low levels of pesticides that are potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Ewes (n = 13/group) were fed either a control untreated diet (CON), or a diet treated with LIN (1 mg/kg/d) or PCP (1 mg/kg/d) during the 5 wk prior to mating and throughout pregnancy and lactation. Mating response, ovulation rate, follicle and corpus luteum size, gestation length, pregnancy rate, lambing rate, and lamb birth weight were recorded. After weaning, 6 ewes from each group were bled at 15-min intervals for 8 h during the day and night and for 1 h before and 5 h after i.v. administration of gonadotropin-releasing hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and adrenocorticotropin, to measure serum concentrations of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, thyroxine (T4), and cortisol. Ewes were then killed and endocrine tissues examined histologically. Pregnancy rate as a result of matings taking place at the synchronized estrus was significantly decreased by the lindane treatment However, PCP and lindane did not markedly affect any other aspect of reproductive function studied. In PCP-treated ewes, serum concentrations of T4 were significantly reduced compared to control ewes during the day and night; however, the T4 response to TSH was not altered by PCP treatment. No other measured endocrine parameters were consistently affected by lindane or PCP. Thyroid follicle size was significantly increased in the LIN and PCP ewes compared to the control ewes. Low serum concentrations of T4 in the PCP ewes may have resulted in increased TSH secretion and increased thyroid follicle size. In conclusion, although pesticide treatments had no serious adverse effects on reproductive function in breeding ewes, PCP reduced T4 concentration, which in the long term could influence reproductive and general performance.

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