Polychlorinated-biphenyls (PCBs) are industrial compounds, which were widely used in manufacturing of electrical parts and transformers. Despite being banned in 1979 due to human health concerns, they persist in the environment. In humans and experimental model systems, PCBs elicit toxicity in part by acting as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Aroclor 1221 (A1221) is a weakly estrogenic PCB mixture known to alter reproductive function in rodents. EDCs can impact hormone signaling at any level of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, and we investigated the effects of A1221 exposure during the prenatal and postnatal developmental periods on pituitary hormone and steroid receptor expression in female rats. Examining offspring at 3 ages, postnatal day 8 (P8), P32 and P60, we found that prenatal exposure to A1221 increased P8 neonate pituitary luteinizing hormone beta (Lhb) mRNA and LHβ gonadotrope cell number while decreasing LH serum hormone concentration. No changes in pituitary hormone or hormone receptor gene expression were observed peri-puberty at P32. In reproductively mature rats at P60, we found pituitary follicle stimulating hormone beta (Fshb) mRNA levels increased by prenatal A1221 exposure with no corresponding alterations in FSH hormone or FSHβ expressing cell number. Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) mRNA and protein levels were also increased at P60, but only following postnatal A1221 dosing. Together, these data illustrate that exposure to the PCB A1221, during critical developmental windows, alters pituitary gonadotropin hormone subunits and ERα levels in offspring at different phases of maturation, potentially impacting reproductive function in concert with other components of the HPG axis.
- Estrogen Receptor alpha
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