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      Human Fetal Testis Xenografts Are Resistant to Phthalate-Induced Endocrine Disruption

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          Background: In utero exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals may contribute to testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS), a proposed constellation of increasingly common male reproductive tract abnormalities (including hypospadias, cryptorchidism, hypospermatogenesis, and testicular cancer). Male rats exposed in utero to certain phthalate plasticizers exhibit multinucleated germ cell (MNG) induction and suppressed steroidogenic gene expression and testosterone production in the fetal testis, causing TDS-consistent effects of hypospadias and cryptorchidism. Mice exposed to phthalates in utero exhibit MNG induction only. This disparity in response demonstrates a species-specific sensitivity to phthalate-induced suppression of fetal Leydig cell steroidogenesis. Importantly, ex vivo phthalate exposure of the fetal testis does not recapitulate the species-specific endocrine disruption, demonstrating the need for a new bioassay to assess the human response to phthalates.

          Objectives: In this study, we aimed to develop and validate a rat and mouse testis xenograft bioassay of phthalate exposure and examine the human fetal testis response.

          Methods: Fetal rat, mouse, and human testes were xenografted into immunodeficient rodent hosts, and hosts were gavaged with a range of phthalate doses over multiple days. Xenografts were harvested and assessed for histopathology and steroidogenic end points.

          Results: Consistent with the in utero response, phthalate exposure induced MNG formation in rat and mouse xenografts, but only rats exhibited suppressed steroidogenesis. Across a range of doses, human fetal testis xenografts exhibited MNG induction but were resistant to suppression of steroidogenic gene expression.

          Conclusions: Phthalate exposure of grafted human fetal testis altered fetal germ cells but did not reduce expression of genes that regulate fetal testosterone biosynthesis.

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          Most cited references 42

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          Identification in rats of a programming window for reproductive tract masculinization, disruption of which leads to hypospadias and cryptorchidism.

          Becoming a phenotypic male is ultimately determined by androgen-induced masculinization. Disorders of fetal masculinization, resulting in hypospadias or cryptorchidism, are common, but their cause remains unclear. Together with the adult-onset disorders low sperm count and testicular cancer, they can constitute a testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS). Although masculinization is well studied, no unifying concept explains normal male reproductive development and its abnormalities, including TDS. We exposed rat fetuses to either anti-androgens or androgens and showed that masculinization of all reproductive tract tissues was programmed by androgen action during a common fetal programming window. This preceded morphological differentiation, when androgen action was, surprisingly, unnecessary. Only within the programming window did blocking androgen action induce hypospadias and cryptorchidism and altered penile length in male rats, all of which correlated with anogenital distance (AGD). Androgen-driven masculinization of females was also confined to the same programming window. This work has identified in rats a common programming window in which androgen action is essential for normal reproductive tract masculinization and has highlighted that measuring AGD in neonatal humans could provide a noninvasive method to predict neonatal and adult reproductive disorders. Based on the timings in rats, we believe the programming window in humans is likely to be 8-14 weeks of gestation.
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            Testicular dysgenesis syndrome: mechanistic insights and potential new downstream effects.

            Reproductive disorders of newborn (cryptorchidism, hypospadias) and young adult males (low sperm counts, testicular germ cell cancer) are common and/or increasing in incidence. It has been hypothesized that these disorders may comprise a testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS) with a common origin in fetal life. This has been supported by findings in an animal model of TDS involving fetal exposure to n(dibutyl) phthalate, as well as by new clinical studies. Recent advances in understanding from such studies have led to refinement of the TDS hypothesis, highlighting the central role that deficient androgen production/action during fetal testis development, may play in the origin of downstream disorders.
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              Human 'testicular dysgenesis syndrome': a possible model using in-utero exposure of the rat to dibutyl phthalate.

              The disorders comprising human 'testicular dysgenesis syndrome' (TDS) may be increasing in incidence. TDS originates in fetal life but the mechanisms are not known, and discerning them requires an animal model. The study investigated whether male rats exposed in utero to dibutyl phthalate [DBP; 500 mg/kg on gestational days (GD) 13-21] would provide a suitable model for human TDS. DBP induced a high rate (>60%) of cryptorchidism (mainly unilateral), hypospadias, infertility and testis abnormalities, similar to those in human TDS. Cell-specific immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy were used to track development of Sertoli [anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), Wilm's tumour (WT-1) protein, p27(kip)], Leydig [3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3beta-HSD)], germ (DAZL protein) and peritubular myoid (smooth muscle actin) cells from fetal life to adulthood. In scrotal and cryptorchid testes of DBP-exposed males, areas of focal dysgenesis were found that contained Sertoli and Leydig cells, and gonocytes and partially formed testicular cords; these dysgenetic areas were associated with Leydig cell hyperplasia at all ages. Suppression ( approximately 90%) of testicular testosterone levels on GD 19 in DBP-exposed males, coincident with delayed peritubular myoid cell differentiation, may have contributed to the dysgenesis. Double immunohistochemistry using WT-1 (expressed in all Sertoli cells) and p27(kip) (expressed only in mature Sertoli cells) revealed immature Sertoli cells in dysgenetic areas. DBP-exposed animals also exhibited Sertoli cell-only (SCO) tubules, sporadically in scrotal and predominantly in cryptorchid, testes, or foci of SCO within normal tubules in scrotal testes. In all SCO areas the Sertoli cells were immature. Intratubular Leydig cells were evident in DBP-exposed animals and, where these occurred, Sertoli cells were immature and spermatogenesis was absent. Abnormal Sertoli cell-gonocyte interaction was evident at GD 19 in DBP-exposed rats coincident with appearance of multinucleated gonocytes, although these disappeared by postnatal day 10 during widespread loss of germ cells. Abnormal development of Sertoli cells, leading to abnormalities in other cell types, is our hypothesized explanation for the abnormal changes in DBP-exposed animals. As the testicular and other changes in DBP-exposed rats have all been reported in human TDS, DBP exposure in utero may provide a useful model for defining the cellular pathways in TDS.

                Author and article information

                Environ Health Perspect
                Environ. Health Perspect
                Environmental Health Perspectives
                National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
                17 April 2012
                August 2012
                : 120
                : 8
                : 1137-1143
                [1 ]Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
                [2 ]The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
                [3 ]Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Delaware, USA
                [4 ]Food and Drug Administration, Center for Veterinary Medicine, Rockville, Maryland, USA
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to K. Boekelheide, Brown University, Box G-E5, Providence, RI 02912 USA. Telephone: (401) 863-1783. Fax: (401) 863-9008. E-mail: kim_boekelheide@ 123456brown.edu

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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