In this paper, we tested the hypothesis that exposure to estrogens of different source and estrogenic potency at early puberty could affect the development of socio-sexual behavior in the male rat. Puberty is regarded as a second stage of the ontogenetic period, in the sexual maturation of mammals, particularly sensitive to gonadal hormone milieu. We treated animals orally, from postnatal day 23 to 30, with an environmentally compatible dose of bisphenol A (BPA, 40 μg/kg/day) and with a dosage of ethinylestradiol (EE, 0.4 μg/kg/day) comparable to the human oral contraceptives.
Exposure to EE altered the temporal pattern of male sexual activity, reducing performance, in the adult animals; slight modifications, in the same direction, were observed with BPA. Short-term behavioral effects were observed in the treated animals, both with BPA and EE: the exploratory drive, directed to a stimulus object and to the environment, as well as to conspecifics, was reduced in the juveniles.
Modifications in the circulating T levels were observed after treatments: T was reduced in the juveniles, both with BPA and EE. The decrement persisted in the adult animals but reached significance only in the BPA group.
On the whole, effects of pubertal exposure on behavior are more marked with EE than BPA. This can be due to the much higher estrogenic potency of EE; the direction of the behavioral effects of BPA, compared with EE, is however indicative of an estrogenic mechanism.