Environmental health perspectives

Effects of chloro-s-triazine herbicides and metabolites on aromatase activity in various human cell lines and on vitellogenin production in male carp hepatocytes.

PMID 11675267


We investigated a potential mechanism for the estrogenic properties of three chloro-s-triazine herbicides and six metabolites in vitro in several cell systems. We determined effects on human aromatase (CYP19), the enzyme that converts androgens to estrogens, in H295R (adrenocortical carcinoma), JEG-3 (placental choriocarcinoma), and MCF-7 (breast cancer) cells; we determined effects on estrogen receptor-mediated induction of vitellogenin in primary hepatocyte cultures of adult male carp (Cyprinus carpio). In addition to atrazine, simazine, and propazine, two metabolites--atrazine-desethyl and atrazine-desisopropyl--induced aromatase activity in H295R cells concentration-dependently (0.3-30 microM) and with potencies similar to those of the parent triazines. After a 24-hr exposure to 30 microM of the triazines, an apparent maximum induction of about 2- to 2.5-fold was achieved. The induction responses were confirmed by similar increases in CYP19 mRNA levels, determined by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. In JEG-3 cells, where basal aromatase expression is about 15-fold greater than in H295R cells, the induction responses were similar but less pronounced; aromatase expression in MCF-7 cells was neither detectable nor inducible under our culture conditions. The fully dealkylated metabolite atrazine-desethyl-desisopropyl and the three hydroxylated metabolites (2-OH-atrazine-desethyl, -desisopropyl, and -desethyl-desisopropyl) did not induce aromatase activity. None of the triazine herbicides nor their metabolites induced vitellogenin production in male carp hepatocytes; nor did they antagonize the induction of vitellogenin by 100 nM (EC(50) 17beta-estradiol. These findings together with other reports indicate that the estrogenic effects associated with the triazine herbicides in vivo are not estrogen receptor-mediated, but may be explained partly by their ability to induce aromatase in vitro.