Hormonal interactions in the effects of halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons on the developing brain

Neil J. Maclusky, Theodore J. Brown, Susan L Schantz, Byung Woun Seo, Richard E. Peterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Halogenated arylhydrocarbons (HAHs) exert a wide range of effects on the developing brain. These effects result in altered patterns of neuroendocrine function and behavior in adulthood, as well as changes in cognitive function. The underlying mechanisms have not yet been clearly defined. This paper briefly reviews the effects of HAHs on brain development, and proposes the hypothesis that interactions between different hormone-sensitive systems may contribute to the broad spectrum of responses observed after fetal or early postnatal HAH exposure. Physiological interactions between the effects of sex steroids, corticosteroids, and thyroid hormone are known to influence the development of the central nervous system (CNS). Since the biosynthesis and/or action of each of these hormones is sensitive to developmental HAH exposure, it is suggested that convergent effects of HAHs on different endocrine pathways may underlie some of the disruptive effects of these chemicals on CNS differentiation. Data are presented indicating that the disruptive effects of low dose dioxin exposure on sexual differentiation of the rat brain are probably not mediated through blockade of estrogen responses, butmay instead involve subtle developmental changes in other endocrine systems, perhaps also affecting the feedback control of adrenocortical function. The potential for interactive endocrine effects illustrates the need for a fuller understanding of the range of biological activities of HAHs in the brain, so that the potential risks of low dose developmental exposure to these environmental toxicants can be predicted with greater certainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-208
Number of pages24
JournalToxicology and Industrial Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1998


  • arylhydrocarbons
  • brain
  • development
  • glucocorticoids
  • sexual differentiation
  • steroid receptors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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