Phytoestrogens alter the reproductive organ development in the mink (Mustela vison)

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The aim of the present study was to examine the reproductive effects of two perorally applied phytoestrogens, genistein (8 mg/kg/day) and β-sitosterol (50 mg/kg/day), on the mink (Mustela vison) at human dietary exposure levels. Parental generations were exposed over 9 months to these phytoestrogens and their offspring were exposed via gestation and lactation. Parents and their offspring were sampled 21 days after the birth of the kits. Sex hormone levels, sperm quality, organ weights, and development of the kits were examined. The exposed females were heavier than the control females at the 1st postnatal day (PND). The control kits were heavier than the exposed kits from the 1st to the 21st PND. Phytoestrogens did not affect the organ weights of the adult minks, but the relative testicular weight of the exposed kits was higher than in the control kits. The relative prostate weight was higher and the relative uterine weight lower in the β-sitosterol-exposed kits than in the control kits. Moreover, the plasma dihydrotestosterone levels were lower in the genistein-exposed male kits compared to the control male kits. This study could not explain the mechanisms behind these alterations. The results indicate that perinatal phytoestrogen exposures cause alterations in the weight of the reproductive organs of the mink kits.

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