Fetal exposure to endocrine disruptors (EDs) is believed to predispose males to reproductive abnormalities. Although males are exposed to combinations of chemicals, few studies have evaluated the effects of ED mixtures at environmentally relevant doses. Our previous work showed that fetal exposure to a mixture of the phytoestrogen genistein (GEN) and the plasticizer di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) induced unique alterations in adult testis. In this follow-up study, we examined Postnatal Day 3 (PND3) and PND6 male offspring exposed from Gestational Day 14 to parturition to corn oil, 10mg/kg GEN, DEHP, or their combination, to gain insight into the early molecular events driving long-term alterations. DEHP stimulated the mRNA and protein expression of the steroidogenic enzyme HSD3B, uniquely at PND3. DEHP also increased the mRNA expression of Nestin, a Leydig progenitor/Sertoli cell marker, and markers of Sertoli cell (Wt1), gonocyte (Plzf, Foxo1), and proliferation (Pcna) at PND3, while these genes were unchanged by the mixture. Redox (Nqo1, Sod2, Sod3, Trx, Gst, Cat) and xenobiotic transporter (Abcb1b, Abcg2) gene expression was also increased by DEHP at PND3, while attenuated when combined with GEN, suggesting the involvement of cellular stress in short-term DEHP effects and a protective effect of GEN. The direct effects of GEN and mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, the principal bioactive metabolite of DEHP, on testis were investigated in PND3 organ cultures, showing a stimulatory effect of 10 μM mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate on basal testosterone production that was normalized by GEN. These effects contrasted with previous reports of androgen suppression and decreased gene expression in perinatal rat testis by high DEHP doses, implying that neonatal effects are not predictive of adult effects. We propose that GEN, through an antioxidant action, normalizes reactive oxygen species-induced neonatal effects of DEHP. The notion that these EDs do not follow classical dose-response effects and involve different mechanisms of toxicity from perinatal ages to adulthood highlights the importance of assessing impacts across a range of doses and ages.
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Vol. 93 • No. 4