Neonatal exposure to estrogens is known to cause delayed effects, a late-occurring adverse effect on adult female reproductive functions, such as early onset of age-matched abnormal estrous cycling. However, the critical period in which neonates are sensitive to delayed effects inducible by exogenous estrogen exposure has not been clearly identified. To clarify this window, we examined the intensity and timing of delayed effects using rats exposed to ethynylestradiol (EE) at various postnatal ages. After subcutaneous administration of a single dose of EE (20 μg/kg, which induces delayed effects) on Postnatal Day (PND) 0, 5, 10, or 14 in Wistar rats, hypothalamic and hormonal alterations in young adults and long-term estrous cycling status were investigated as indicators of delayed effects. In young adults, peak luteinizing hormone concentrations at the time of the luteinizing hormone surge showed a decreasing trend, and KiSS1 mRNA expression of the anterior hypothalamus and number of KiSS1-positive cells in the anteroventral periventricular nucleus were significantly decreased in the PND 0, 5, and 10 groups. The reduction in KiSS1 mRNA and KiSS1-postive cells was inversely correlated with age at time of exposure. These groups also exhibited early onset of abnormal estrous cycling, starting from 17 wk of age in the PND0 group and 19 wk of age in the PND5 and 10 groups. These indicators were not apparent in the PND14 group. Our results suggest that PND0–PND10 is the critical window of susceptibility for delayed effects, and PND14 is presumed to be the provisional endpoint of the window.
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Vol. 93 • No. 2