Neonatal Estrogenic Effects upon the Male Rat Pituitary: Early Gonadotrophin Attenuation Precedes Long-term Recovery

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Neonatal exposure to potent estrogenic compounds can affect multiple components of the male reproductive system causing impaired development of the epithelium and overgrowth of stromal tissue in the epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles, and prostate. However, very little is known about the direct effects of estrogenic compounds on the anterior pituitary gland. In this study we have investigated the effects of neonatal estrogenic exposure upon the anterior pituitary. Both the early- and late-stage effects of exposure to a synthetic estrogenic agent, diethylstilbestrol (DES), upon pituitary gonadotroph cell function were assessed. We administered either a high dose (10 μg) or a low dose (0.1 μg) of DES to male rats during their neonatal period (P2–12). Gonadotroph function, cell number and morphology shortly after DES treatment (P18) and during adulthood (P90) were assessed. At P18 there was a significant decrease in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) immunoreactivity in the pituitary gonadotroph cells in the high DES dose treated rats compared to control animals. No significant change in luteinizing hormone (LH) was observed at either DES dose. In adulthood (P90), there was no significant difference in FSH or LH gonadotroph immunoreactivity between control rats and any dose of DES-treated rats. Therefore, despite acute and selective ablation of FSH expression the gonadotrophs were able to recover in adulthood, suggesting that perinatal estrogenic exposure was only temporarily deleterious.

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