Actions of the endocrine disruptor methoxychlor and its estrogenic metabolite on in vitro embryonic rat seminiferous cord formation and perinatal testis growth

Andrea S. Cupp, Michael K. Skinner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The current study examines the actions of methoxychlor and its estrogenic metabolite, 2, 2-bis-(p-hydroxyphenyl)-1, 1, 1-trichloroethane (HPTE), on seminiferous cord formation and growth of the developing rat testis. The developing testis in the embryonic and early postnatal period is likely more sensitive to hormonally active agents than at later stages of development. Embryonic day 13 (E13) testis organ cultures were treated with either 0.2, 2, or 20 μM methoxychlor or 1, 3, 6, 15, 30, or 60 μM HPTE to examine effects on cord formation. No concentration of methoxychlor completely inhibited cord formation. However, cord formation was abnormal with the presence of a reduced number of cords and appearance of "swollen" cords at the 2 and 20 μM concentrations of methoxychlor. The swollen cords were due to an increase in the number of cells in a cord cross section and reduction of interstitial cell numbers between cords. Treatment of embryonic day 13 (E13) testes with HPTE caused abnormal cord formation at the 3 μM and 6 μM concentrations, and completely inhibited cord formation at the 15, 30, and 60 μM concentrations. In addition to the estrogenic metabolite HTPE, methoxychlor can also be metabolized into anti-androgenic compounds. Therefore, to determine the spectrum of potential actions of methoxychlor on testis development, different concentrations of estradiol, testosterone, and an anti-androgen (flutamide) were utilized to determine their effects on E13 testis organ culture morphology. Estradiol (1 μM) and flutamide (O.1μM) both inhibited seminiferous cord formation in E13 testis organ cultures. Therefore, methoxychlor may be acting through the androgen and/or estrogen receptors to elicit its actions on seminiferous cord formation. Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (RT-PCR) confirmed the presence of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) mRNA from embryonic day 14 (E14) through postnatal day 5 (P5) while estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) mRNA did not appear until approximately E16 of testis development. Androgen receptor (AR) expression was present from E14 through P5 of testis development, but at apparently reduced levels at E14 and E16. Immunohistochemical analysis localized ERα to the cells of the seminiferous cords at E14 though P5 while ERβ was present in cells of the interstitium at E16 and PO. Androgen receptor was localized to germ and interstitial cells. The effects of methoxychlor, HPTE, estradiol, and testosterone on cell growth of perinatal testes was determined with a thymidine incorporation assay in postnatal day zero (PO) testis cell cultures. Methoxychlor (0.002, 0.02, and 0.2 μM) and HPTE (2 and 20 μM) stimulated thymidine incorporation in P0 testis cell cultures in a similar manner to estradiol (0.01, 0.1, and 1 μM). In addition, testosterone (0.1 μM) also stimulated thymidine incorporation in P0 testis cultures. Observations suggest that methoxychlor and its metabolite HPTE can alter normal embryonic testis development and growth. The actions of methoxychlor and HPTE are likely mediated in part through the steroid receptors confirmed to be present in the developing testis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-326
Number of pages10
JournalReproductive Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


  • Embryonic development
  • Gametogenesis
  • Growth
  • HPTE
  • Mesenchymal-epithelial
  • Methoxychlor
  • Sertoli cell
  • Testis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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