The effects of a phthalate metabolite mixture on antral follicle growth and sex steroid synthesis in mice

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Phthalates are used as solvents and plasticizers in a wide variety of consumer products. Most people are exposed to phthalates as parent compounds through ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. However, these parent compounds are quickly metabolized to more active compounds in several tissues. Although studies indicate that phthalate metabolites reach the ovary, little is known about whether they are ovarian toxicants. Thus, this study tested the hypothesis that phthalate metabolites influence the expression of genes involved in sex steroid synthesis, cell cycle regulation, cell death, oxidative stress, and key receptors, as well as production of sex steroid hormones by mouse antral follicles. The selected metabolite mixture consisted of 36.7% monoethyl phthalate (MEP), 19.4% mono(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (MEHP), 15.3% monobutyl phthalate (MBP), 10.2% monoisobutyl phthalate (MiBP), 10.2% monoisononyl phthalate (MiNP), and 8.2% monobenzyl phthalate (MBzP). Antral follicles from adult CD-1 mice were cultured for 96 h with vehicle control (DMSO) or metabolite mixture (0.065–325 μg/mL). Growth of follicles in culture was monitored every 24 h. Total RNA was isolated after 24 and 96 h and used for gene expression analysis. Media were collected and subjected to hormone analysis. Exposure to the phthalate mixture inhibited follicle growth, decreased expression of steroidogenic enzymes, and altered the levels of sex steroids relative to control. The mixture, primarily at the two highest doses, also altered expression of cell cycle regulators, apoptotic factors, oxidative stress genes, and some receptors. Collectively, these data suggest that mixtures of phthalate metabolites can directly impact follicle health.HighlightsA monophthalate mixture dysregulates sex steroid synthesis in antral follicles.A monophthalate mixture dysregulates expression of sex steroid synthesis genes.A monophthalate mixture decreases antral follicle growth.A monophthalate mixture dysregulates expression of cell cycle regulators.A monophthalate mixture dysregulates apoptotic factor gene expression.

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