Effect of mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate on steroid production of human granulosa cells

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The phthalate ester mono-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP) is the active metabolite of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, a high-production-volume chemical used as a plasticizer and solvent in numerous consumer products. MEHP has been demonstrated to be a reproductive toxicant in rodents decreasing estradiol and progesterone production in preovulatory granulosa cells. In the present study, we examined the effect of MEHP on steroid production of human granulosa-lutein (GL) cells.Human GL cells collected from women undergoing in vitro fertilization were cultured in medium containing FSH, hCG and 8-Br-cAMP, respectively, together with various concentrations of MEHP (0–500 μmol L−1). After incubation for 48 h estradiol and progesterone were assayed in the spent culture medium. Furthermore, aromatase activity and mRNA levels of GL cells were determined.Basal as well as FSH-, hCG- and 8-Br-cAMP-stimulated estradiol production of GL cells was suppressed by MEHP in a dose-dependent manner (IC50 = 105 μmol L−1, 138 μmol L−1, 49 μmol L−1 and 78 μmol L−1). Furthermore aromatase activity and mRNA levels were reduced in GL cells cultured with MEHP. In contrast, MEHP did not alter the production of progesterone up to a concentration of 167 μmol L−1.The present data indicate that MEHP is a specific inhibitor of estradiol production in human GL cells with a post-cAMP site of action. The inhibition of estradiol production obviously results from a reduction of aromatase activity on the transcript level. As the in vitro effective doses of MEHP are within the range of real environmental exposure levels an inhibitory effect on estrogen production in vivo seems to be possible.

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