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      Regulation of Wolffian Duct Development

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          Wolffian ducts (WDs) are the embryonic structures that form the male internal genitalia. These ducts develop in both the male and female embryo. However, in the female they subsequently regress, whereas in the male they are stabilised by testosterone. The WDs then develop into separate but contiguous organs, the epididymis, vas deferens and seminal vesicles. Recently, considerable progress has been made in identifying genes that are involved in these different stages of development which is described in this review. In addition, WD development in (atypical forms of) cystic fibrosis and intersex disorders, such as the complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency and LH-receptor defects, is discussed. The apparent increase in male reproductive tract disorders is briefly discussed from the perspective of the potential endocrine-disrupting effects of the numerous chemicals in the environment to which the developing male foetus can be exposed.

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          Most cited references 41

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          Nephric lineage specification by Pax2 and Pax8.

          The mammalian kidney develops in three successive steps from the initial pronephros via the mesonephros to the adult metanephros. Although the nephric lineage is specified during pronephros induction, no single regulator, including the transcription factor Pax2 or Pax8, has yet been identified to control this initial phase of kidney development. In this paper, we demonstrate that mouse embryos lacking both Pax2 and Pax8 are unable to form the pronephros or any later nephric structures. In these double-mutant embryos, the intermediate mesoderm does not undergo the mesenchymal-epithelial transitions required for nephric duct formation, fails to initiate the kidney-specific expression of Lim1 and c-Ret, and is lost by apoptosis 1 d after failed pronephric induction. Conversely, retroviral misexpression of Pax2 was sufficient to induce ectopic nephric structures in the intermediate mesoderm and genital ridge of chick embryos. Together, these data identify Pax2 and Pax8 as critical regulators that specify the nephric lineage.
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            Generation and characterization of androgen receptor knockout (ARKO) mice: an in vivo model for the study of androgen functions in selective tissues.

             S. Yeh,  M.-Y. Tsai,  Q Xu (2002)
            By using a cre-lox conditional knockout strategy, we report here the generation of androgen receptor knockout (ARKO) mice. Phenotype analysis shows that ARKO male mice have a female-like appearance and body weight. Their testes are 80% smaller and serum testosterone concentrations are lower than in wild-type (wt) mice. Spermatogenesis is arrested at pachytene spermatocytes. The number and size of adipocytes are also different between the wt and ARKO mice. Cancellous bone volumes of ARKO male mice are reduced compared with wt littermates. In addition, we found the average number of pups per litter in homologous and heterozygous ARKO female mice is lower than in wt female mice, suggesting potential defects in female fertility and/or ovulation. The cre-lox ARKO mouse provides a much-needed in vivo animal model to study androgen functions in the selective androgen target tissues in female or male mice.
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              Disruption of reproductive development in male rat offspring following in utero exposure to phthalate esters.

               Paul Foster (2006)
              Certain Phthalate esters have been shown to produce reproductive toxicity in male rodents with an age dependent sensitivity in effects with foetal animals being more sensitive than neonates which are in turn more sensitive than pubertal and adult animals. While the testicular effects of phthalates in rats have been known for more than 30 years, recent attention has been focused on the ability of these agents to produce effects on reproductive development in male offspring after in utero exposure. These esters and in particular di-butyl, di-(2-ethylhexyl) and butyl benzyl phthalates have been shown to produce a syndrome of reproductive abnormalities characterized by malformations of the epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, prostate, external genitalia (hypospadias), cryptorchidism and testicular injury together with permanent changes (feminization) in the retention of nipples/areolae (sexually dimorphic structures in rodents) and demasculinization of the growth of the perineum resulting in a reduced anogenital distance (AGD). Critical to the induction of these effects is a marked reduction in foetal testicular testosterone production at the critical window for the development of the reproductive tract normally under androgen control. A second Leydig cell product, insl3, is also significantly down regulated and is likely responsible for the cryptorchidism commonly seen in these phthalate-treated animals. The testosterone decrease is mediated by changes in gene expression of a number of enzymes and transport proteins involved in normal testosterone biosynthesis and transport in the foetal Leydig cell. Alterations in the foetal seminiferous cords are also noted after in utero phthalate treatment with the induction of multinucleate gonocytes that contribute to lowered spermatocyte numbers in postnatal animals. The phthalate syndrome of effects on reproductive development has parallels with the reported human testicular dysgenesis syndrome, although no cause and effect relationship exists after exposure of humans to phthalate esters. However humans are exposed to and produce the critical phthalate metabolites that have been detected in blood of the general population, in children and also human amniotic fluid.

                Author and article information

                Horm Res Paediatr
                Hormone Research in Paediatrics
                S. Karger AG
                March 2007
                31 October 2006
                : 67
                : 3
                : 142-151
                Department of Paediatrics, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
                96644 Horm Res 2007;67:142–151
                © 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Figures: 6, References: 65, Pages: 10
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