Prenatal testosterone excess leads to neuroendocrine and periovulatory disruptions in the offspring culminating in progressive loss of cyclicity. It is unknown whether the mediary of these disruptions is androgen or estrogen, because testosterone can be aromatized to estrogen. Taking a reproductive life span approach of studying control, prenatal testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone-treated offspring, this study tested the hypothesis that disruptions in estradiol-negative but not -positive feedback effects are programmed by androgenic actions of testosterone and that these disruptions in turn will have an impact on the periovulatory hormonal dynamics. The approach was to test estradiol-negative and -positive feedback responses of all three groups of ovary-intact females during prepubertal age and then compare the periovulatory dynamics of luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estradiol, and progesterone during the first breeding season. The findings show that estradiol-negative but not estradiol-positive feedback disruptions in prenatal testosterone-treated females are programmed by androgenic actions of prenatal testosterone excess and that follicular phase estradiol and gonadotropins surge disruptions during reproductive life are consistent with estrogenic programming. Additional studies carried out testing estradiol-positive feedback response over time found progressive deterioration of estradiol-positive feedback in prenatal testosterone-treated sheep until the time of puberty. Together, these findings provide insight into the mechanisms by which prenatal testosterone disrupts the reproductive axis. The findings may be of translational relevance since daughters of mothers with hyperandrogenism are at risk of increased exposure to androgens.
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Vol. 80 • No. 4