Nicholas E Heger 1 , Susan J Hall 1 , Moses A Sandrof 1 , Elizabeth V McDonnell 1 , Janan B Hensley 2 , Erin N McDowell 3 , Kayla A Martin 3 , Kevin W Gaido 4 , Kamin J Johnson 3 , Kim Boekelheide , 1
17 April 2012
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.