A fetal whole ovarian culture model for the evaluation of CrVI-induced developmental toxicity during germ cell nest breakdown

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Prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), including bisphenol A, dioxin, pesticides, and cigarette smoke, has been linked to several ovarian diseases such as premature ovarian failure (POF) and early menopause in women. Hexavalent chromium (CrVI), one of the more toxic heavy metals, is widely used in more than 50 industries. As one of the world's leading producers of Cr compounds, the U.S. is facing growing challenges in protecting human health against adverse effects of CrVI. Our recent findings demonstrated that in vivo CrVI exposure during gestational period caused POF in F1 offspring. Our current research focus is three-fold: (i) to identify the effect of CrVI on critical windows of great vulnerability of fetal ovarian development; (ii) to understand the molecular mechanism of CrVI-induced POF; (iii) to identify potential intervention strategies to mitigate or inhibit CrVI effects. In order to accomplish these goals we used a fetal whole ovarian culture system. Fetuses were removed from the normal pregnant rats on gestational day 13.5. Fetal ovaries were cultured in vitro for 12 days, and treated with or without 0.1 ppm potassium dichromate (CrVI) from culture day 2–8, which recapitulated embryonic day 14.5–20.5, in vivo. Results showed that CrVI increased germ cell/oocyte apoptosis by increasing caspase 3, BAX, p53 and PUMA; decreasing BCL2, BMP15, GDF9 and cKIT; and altering cell cycle regulatory genes and proteins. This model system may serve as a potential tool for high throughput testing of various drugs and/or EDCs in particular to assess developmental toxicity of the ovary.Graphical abstractHighlightsCrVI (0.1 ppm, a regulatory dose) increased germ cell apoptosis of fetal ovaries.CrVI (0.1 ppm) increased pro-apoptotic proteins.CrVI (0.1 ppm) decreased cyclins and CDK1 and cell survival proteins.CrVI (0.1 ppm) increased oxidative stress during fetal ovarian development.We propose fetal ovarian culture model for high-throughput testing of heavy-metals.

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