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

The modern concept of thyroid disruptors includes man-made 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 action of thyroid hormones. This review highlights relevant disruptors that effect 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 through to adulthood, including evidence from in vitro studies, rodent models, human trials and epidemiological studies.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Abby F Fleisch, Robert O Wright and Andrea A Baccarelli

Endocrine disrupting chemicals that are structurally similar to steroid or amine hormones have the potential to mimic endocrine endpoints at the receptor level. However, more recently, epigenetic-induced alteration in gene expression has emerged as an alternative way in which environmental compounds may exert endocrine effects. We review concepts related to environmental epigenetics and relevance for endocrinology through three broad examples: 1) effect of early-life nutritional exposures on future obesity and insulin resistance, 2) effect of lifetime environmental exposures such as ionizing radiation on endocrine cancer risk, and 3) potential for compounds previously classified as endocrine disrupting to additionally or alternatively exert effects through epigenetic mechanisms. The field of environmental epigenetics is still nascent, and additional studies are needed to confirm and reinforce data derived from animal models and preliminary human studies. Current evidence suggests that environmental exposures may significantly impact expression of endocrine-related genes and thereby affect clinical endocrine outcomes.

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R Betney and IJ McEwan

The intracellular androgen receptor (AR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor. Upon binding the steroids testosterone or dihydrotestosterone, the activated receptor translocates to the nucleus, binds to specific DNA response elements and interacts with the transcription machinery in order to regulate gene transcription. In the present study, we have described a highly conserved region (amino acids 224-258) within the AR AF-1 domain and have investigated the role of conserved bulky hydrophobic residues in gene regulation. Mutating pairs of residues (I229A/L236A; V240A/V242A; L251A/L254A) reduced transactivation activity by 25-40%. Mutating residues M244, L246 and V248 to alanines had a more dramatic affect on receptor activity, disrupting activity by at least 60%. The latter mutations also disrupted binding to the RNA polymerase-associated protein 74 subunit of the general transcription factor TFIIF. The protein conformation and stability of the mutant polypeptide in vitro was not significantly different from the wild type. None of the mutations tested disrupted binding of the AF-1 domain with the coactivator protein steroid receptor coactivator-1a. Thus we have concluded that conserved hydrophobic residues are important for receptor-dependent gene transcription and that M244, L246 and V248 are part of the binding interface for TFIIF.