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Karen Jesus Oliveira, Maria Isabel Chiamolera, Gisele Giannocco, Carmen Cabanelas Pazos-Moura and Tania Maria Ortiga-Carvalho

The modern concept of thyroid disruptors includes synthetic chemicals and bioactive compounds from food that interfere with any aspect of the hypothalamus–pituitary–thyroid axis, thyroid hormone biosynthesis and secretion, blood and transmembrane transport, metabolism and local actions of thyroid hormones. This review highlights relevant disruptors that affect populations through their diet: directly from food itself (fish oil and polyunsaturated fatty acids, pepper, coffee, cinnamon and resveratrol/grapes), through vegetable cultivation (pesticides) and from containers for food storage and cooking (bisphenol A, phthalates and polybrominated diphenyl ethers). Due to the vital role of thyroid hormones during every stage of life, we review effects from the gestational period to adulthood, including evidence from in vitro studies, rodent models, human trials and epidemiological studies.

Free access

H Inoshita, H Masuyama and Y Hiramatsu

An endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) can alter endocrine functions through a variety of mechanisms, including nuclear receptor-mediated changes in protein synthesis, interference with membrane receptor binding, steroidogenesis or synthesis of other hormones. Although major chemicals have been shown to disrupt estrogenic actions mainly through their binding to estrogen receptor (ER) or androgen receptor, it is not clear how EDCs affect endocrine functions in vivo. We present evidence that the EDCs bisphenol A and phthalate activate ER-mediated transcription through interaction with TRAP220. Moreover, bisphenol A had positive effects on the interaction between ER-beta and TRAP220 and on the expression of ER-beta and TRAP220 compared with phthalate and estradiol in uterine tIssue. These data suggested that some EDCs might alter endocrine function through the change of the receptor and coactivator levels in uterine tIssue and through the different effect on the interaction between ERs and coactivator TRAP220.

Free access

Michael E Baker and Gary Hardiman

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including plasticizers, pesticides, detergents, and pharmaceuticals, affect a variety of hormone-regulated physiological pathways in humans and wildlife. Many EDCs are lipophilic molecules and bind to hydrophobic pockets in steroid receptors, such as the estrogen receptor and androgen receptor, which are important in vertebrate reproduction and development. Indeed, health effects attributed to EDCs include reproductive dysfunction (e.g. reduced fertility, reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male:female sex ratios in fish), early puberty, various cancers, and obesity. A major concern is the effects of exposure to low concentrations of endocrine disruptors in utero and post partum, which may increase the incidence of cancer and diabetes in adults. EDCs affect transcription of hundreds and even thousands of genes, which has created the need for new tools to monitor the global effects of EDCs. The emergence of massive parallel sequencing for investigating gene transcription provides a sensitive tool for monitoring the effects of EDCs on humans and other vertebrates, as well as elucidating the mechanism of action of EDCs. Zebrafish conserve many developmental pathways found in humans, which makes zebrafish a valuable model system for studying EDCs, especially on early organ development because their embryos are translucent. In this article, we review recent advances in massive parallel sequencing approaches with a focus on zebrafish. We make the case that zebrafish exposed to EDCs at different stages of development can provide important insights on EDC effects on human health.

Free access

Jason F Ohlstein, Amy L Strong, John A McLachlan, Jeffrey M Gimble, Matthew E Burow and Bruce A Bunnell

Exposure of humans to the endocrine disrupter bisphenol A (BPA) has been associated with increased weight and obesity. However, the mechanism(s) by which BPA increases adipose tissue in humans remains to be determined. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of BPA on adipogenesis of cultured human adipose stromal/stem cells (ASCs), precursors to mature adipocytes. ASCs from three donors were cultured for either 14 or 21 days in adipogenic differentiation media containing increasing concentrations of BPA (100 pM–10 μM). The extent of adipogenic differentiation in the ASCs was assessed by staining with Oil Red O to visualize adipogenic differentiation and then quantified by extraction and optical density measurement of the retained dye. BPA significantly enhanced adipogenesis at a concentration of 1 μM after 21 days of culture. Additionally, we found that BPA increased transcription of the estrogen receptor (ER (ESR1)) and that treatment with the ER antagonist ICI 182 780, blocked the effects of BPA, indicating that BPA may act via an ER-mediated pathway. The results of molecular analyses indicated that the expression of the adipogenesis-associated genes dual leucine zipper-bearing kinase (DLK (MAP3K12)), IGF1, CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/EBP α (CEBPA)), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPAR γ (PPARG)), and lipoprotein lipase (LPL) was temporally accelerated and increased by BPA. In summary, these results indicate that BPA significantly enhances adipogenesis in ASCs through an ER-mediated pathway at physiologically relevant concentrations.

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F Petit, P Le Goff, JP Cravedi, Y Valotaire and F Pakdel

A relation between the chemical structure of a xenobiotic and its steroidal action has not yet been clearly established. Thus, it is not possible to define the estrogenic potency of different xenobiotics. An assessment may be accomplished by the use of different bioassays. We have previously developed a yeast system highly and stably expressing rainbow trout estrogen receptor (rtER) in order to analyze the biological activity of the receptor. The recombinant yeast system appears to be a reliable, rapid and sensitive bioassay for the screening and determination of the direct interaction between ER and estrogenic compounds. This system was used in parallel with a more elaborate biological system, trout hepatocyte aggregate cultures, to examine the estrogenic potency of a wide spectrum of chemicals commonly found in the environment. In hepatocyte cultures, the vitellogenin gene whose expression is principally dependent upon estradiol was used as a biomarker. Moreover, competitive binding assays were performed to determine direct interaction between rtER and xenobiotics. In our study, 50% of the 49 chemical compounds tested exhibited estrogenic activity in the two bioassays: the herbicide diclofop-methyl; the fungicides biphenyl, dodemorph, and triadimefon; the insecticides lindane, methyl parathion, chlordecone, dieldrin, and endosulfan; polychlorinated biphenyl mixtures; the plasticizers or detergents alkylphenols and phthalates; and phytoestrogens. To investigate further biphenyl estrogenic activity, its principal metabolites were also tested in both bioassays. Among these estrogenic compounds, 70% were able to activate rtER in yeast and hepatocytes with variable induction levels according to the system. Nevertheless, 30% of these estrogenic compounds exhibited estrogenic activity in only one of the bioassays, suggesting the implication of metabolites or different pathways in the activation of gene transcription. This paper shows that it is important to combine in vivo bioassays with in vitro approaches to elucidate the mechanism of xenoestrogen actions.

Free access

Ciro Menale, Maria Teresa Piccolo, Grazia Cirillo, Raffaele A Calogero, Alfonso Papparella, Luigi Mita, Emanuele Miraglia Del Giudice, Nadia Diano, Stefania Crispi and Damiano Gustavo Mita

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a xenobiotic endocrine-disrupting chemical. In vitro and in vivo studies have indicated that BPA alters endocrine-metabolic pathways in adipose tissue, which increases the risk of metabolic disorders and obesity. BPA can affect adipose tissue and increase fat cell numbers or sizes by regulating the expression of the genes that are directly involved in metabolic homeostasis and obesity. Several studies performed in animal models have accounted for an obesogen role of BPA, but its effects on human adipocytes – especially in children – have been poorly investigated. The aim of this study is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which environmentally relevant doses of BPA can interfere with the canonical endocrine function that regulates metabolism in mature human adipocytes from prepubertal, non-obese children. BPA can act as an estrogen agonist or antagonist depending on the physiological context. To identify the molecular signatures associated with metabolism, transcriptional modifications of mature adipocytes from prepubertal children exposed to estrogen were evaluated by means of microarray analysis. The analysis of deregulated genes associated with metabolic disorders allowed us to identify a small group of genes that are expressed in an opposite manner from that of adipocytes treated with BPA. In particular, we found that BPA increases the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the expression of FABP4 and CD36, two genes involved in lipid metabolism. In addition, BPA decreases the expression of PCSK1, a gene involved in insulin production. These results indicate that exposure to BPA may be an important risk factor for developing metabolic disorders that are involved in childhood metabolism dysregulation.

Free access

Elin Swedenborg, Joëlle Rüegg, Sari Mäkelä and Ingemar Pongratz

Endocrine disruption refers to the ability of chemicals to interfere with hormonal systems, and has raised considerable concern in recent years. Endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) pose a documented risk to wildlife and have the potential to negatively influence human health. This review focuses on the molecular mechanisms of endocrine disruption and the possible involvement of EDCs in metabolic disorders. The first part describes the role of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) and nuclear receptors (NRs) in mediating effects of EDCs, in particular, how cross-talk between AhR and NR pathways can lead to endocrine disruption. The second part deals with how these receptors are involved in metabolic functions and how their targeting by EDCs can lead to disturbances in glucose and fat metabolism. The article illustrates that, although there is accumulating data on molecular mechanisms of EDC action as well as on EDC involvement in metabolic disorders, there is still a great demand for data that can unite the mechanistic and the toxicological/epidemiological observations.

Free access

Tara Sabo-Attwood, Jason L Blum, Kevin J Kroll, Vishal Patel, Detlef Birkholz, Nancy J Szabo, Suzanne Z Fisher, Robert McKenna, Martha Campbell-Thompson and Nancy D Denslow


The estrogen receptor (ER) signaling cascade is a vulnerable target of exposure to environmental xenoestrogens, like nonylphenol (NP), which are causally associated with impaired health status. However, the impact of xenoestrogens on the individual receptor isotypes (α, βa, and βb) is not well understood. The goal of these studies was to determine the impact of NP on largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) ER isotype expression and activity. Here, we show that hepatic expression levels of three receptors are not equivalent in male largemouth bass exposed to NP by injection. Transcript levels of the ERα subtype were predominantly induced in concert with vitellogenin similarly to fish exposed to 17β-estradiol (E2) as measured by quantitative real-time PCR. NP also induced circulating plasma levels of estrogen, which may contribute to overall activation of the ERs. To measure the activation of each receptor isotype by E2 and NP, we employed reporter assays using an estrogen response element (ERE)–luciferase construct. Results from these studies show that ERα had the greatest activity following exposure to E2 and NP. This activity was inhibited by the antagonists ICI 182 780 and ZM 189 154. Furthermore, both βb and βa subtypes depressed ERα activation, suggesting that the cellular composition of receptor isotypes may contribute to the overall actions of estrogen and estrogenic contaminants via the receptors. Results from these studies collectively reveal the differential response of fish ER isotypes in response to xenoestrogens.

Free access

J Jääskeläinen, A Deeb, J W Schwabe, N P Mongan, H Martin and I A Hughes

Most mutations in the androgen receptor (AR) ligand-binding domain (LBD) disrupt binding of the natural ligands: dihydrotestosterone and testosterone. Some AR LBD mutations do not affect ligand binding but they disrupt androgen-induced interaction of the N-terminal motif FXXLF and C-terminal activation function 2 (AF2). As N-/C-terminal interaction requires binding of agonists that have androgen activity in vivo, it correlates well with the phenotype. To study this further, we searched the Cambridge intersex database for patients with a detected missense mutation in the AR LBD presenting with normal ligand binding. Six mutations (D695N, Y763C, R774H, Q798E, R855H and L907F) were selected and introduced by site-directed mutagenesis into the pSVAR and pM-LBD plasmids. The transactivational potential of the wild-type and mutant androgen receptors (pSVAR) was examined by dual-luciferase assay using pGRE-LUC as a reporter vector. N-/C-terminal interaction was studied by mammalian two-hybrid assay using wild-type and mutated AR LBD (pM-LBD), pVP16-rAR-(5–538) (encoding rat amino-terminal AR) and pCMX-UAS-TK-LUC as a reporter. AR LBD mutations D695N, R774H and L907F presented with minimal transactivational capacity and N-/C-terminal interaction was totally disrupted. Mutations Y763C and R885H had some residual dose-dependent transactivational potential and minimal N-/C-terminal interaction. Q798E presented with good transactivational potential and it showed only mild reduction in N-/C-terminal interaction. With the selected mutations, N-/C-terminal interaction correlated well with AR transactivation and the phenotype. Disrupted N-/C-terminal interaction is capable of providing the mechanism for androgen-insensitivity syndrome in most cases where the mutation in the LBD does not disrupt ligand binding. Furthermore, mutations leading to the disrupted N-/C-terminal interaction can be localized to certain critical regions in the three-dimensional structure of the AR LBD. Our study shows that apart from the previously reported regions, regions just before helix 3, between helices 5 and 6, and at helix 10 are also important for AR N-/C-terminal interaction.

Free access

J-M Frenoux, P Vernet, D H Volle, A Britan, F Saez, A Kocer, J Henry-Berger, D J Mangelsdorf, J-M A Lobaccaro and J R Drevet

In this study we looked at the epididymides and spermatozoa of mice knocked-out for nuclear oxysterol receptors (LXR). We have shown that LXR-deficient mice exhibited upon ageing a severe disruption of their caput epididymides associated with abnormal accumulation of neutral lipids. The epididymis defaults were correlated with sperm head fragility and infertility. In agreement with the observed caput defect in transgenic animals in which both LXRα and LXRβ isoforms were disrupted, we have shown here that both receptors are expressed in caput and cauda epididymides regions. LXRβ was predominantly expressed throughout the mouse epididymis while the expression of LXRα was weaker. In addition, the expression of selected genes that can be considered as markers of adult epididymis function was monitored via Northern blots in the different single and double LXR-deficient backgrounds. Altogether, the data presented here suggest that LXR receptors are important actors in epididymis function.