Molecular endocrinology (Baltimore, Md.)

Early life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals causes lifelong molecular reprogramming of the hypothalamus and premature reproductive aging.

PMID 22016562


Gestational exposure to the estrogenic endocrine disruptor methoxychlor (MXC) disrupts the female reproductive system at the molecular, physiological, and behavioral levels in adulthood. The current study addressed whether perinatal exposure to endocrine disruptors re-programs expression of a suite of genes expressed in the hypothalamus that control reproductive function and related these molecular changes to premature reproductive aging. Fischer rats were exposed daily for 12 consecutive days to vehicle (dimethylsulfoxide), estradiol benzoate (EB) (1 mg/kg), and MXC (low dose, 20 μg/kg or high dose, 100 mg/kg), beginning on embryonic d 19 through postnatal d 7. The perinatally exposed females were aged to 16-17 months and monitored for reproductive senescence. After euthanasia, hypothalamic regions [preoptic area (POA) and medial basal hypothalamus] were dissected for real-time PCR of gene expression or pyrosequencing to assess DNA methylation of the Esr1 gene. Using a 48-gene PCR platform, two genes (Kiss1 and Esr1) were significantly different in the POA of endocrine-disrupting chemical-exposed rats compared with vehicle-exposed rats after Bonferroni correction. Fifteen POA genes were up-regulated by at least 50% in EB or high-dose MXC compared with vehicle. To understand the epigenetic basis of the increased Esr1 gene expression, we performed bisulfite conversion and pyrosequencing of the Esr1 promoter. EB-treated rats had significantly higher percentage of methylation at three CpG sites in the Esr1 promoter compared with control rats. Together with these molecular effects, perinatal MXC and EB altered estrous cyclicity and advanced reproductive senescence. Thus, early life exposure to endocrine disruptors has lifelong effects on neuroendocrine gene expression and DNA methylation, together with causing the advancement of reproductive senescence.

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Methoxychlor, PESTANAL®, analytical standard