Atrazine [2-chloro-4-(ethylamino)-6-(isopropylamino)-s-tri-azine] is one of the most commonly used herbicides in the United States. Atrazine has been shown to suppress luteinizing hormone (LH) release and can lead to a prolongation of the estrous cycle in the rat. The objectives of this study were to examine the effects of atrazine on normal tonic release of LH and to elucidate the site of action of atrazine in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Episodic release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and the corresponding release of LH from the anterior pituitary gland are required for normal reproductive function. To determine if atrazine affects pulsatile LH release, ovariectomized adult female Wistar rats were administered atrazine (50, 100, or 200 mg/kg of body weight daily by gavage) or vehicle control for 4 days. On the final day of atrazine treatment, blood samples were obtained using an indwelling right atrial cannula. In the group receiving 200 mg/kg, there was a significant reduction in LH pulse frequency and a concomitant increase in pulse amplitude. To determine if the effects of atrazine on LH release were due to changes at the level of the pituitary, animals were passively immunized against endogenous GnRH, treated with atrazine, and challenged with a GnRH receptor agonist. Atrazine failed to alter pituitary sensitivity to the GnRH receptor agonist at any dose used. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that high doses of atrazine affect the GnRH pulse generator in the brain and not at the level of gonadotrophs in the pituitary.
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