Female sexual maturation and reproduction after prepubertal exposure to estrogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals: a review of rodent and human data.
To examine the effects of prepubertal steroid environment on subsequent estrous cyclicity and gonadotropin secretion, Silastic implants containing 25, 50 or 100% 17 beta-estradiol (E2;n=34), 50% diethylstilbestrol (DES; n=16) or 50% testosterone (T; n=17) were placed into female rats at 12 days of age and removed on the day of vaginal opening (18-24 days of age). At 80 days of age, the percentages of regularly cycling females in the E2-(three groups combined), DES- and T-implanted groups were 59%, 0% and 59%, respectively. By 110 days of age, the percentages were reduced to 24%, 0% and 0%, and at 140 days of age 6%, 0% and 0%, respectively. Many of these females displayed irregular estrous cycles followed by a persistent estrous (PE) state. By contrast, 89% of the control females (blank implants or no implant) maintained regular cycles up to 140 days of age. At 150 days of age, an i.p. injection of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH; 100 ng/100 g BW) markedly increased serum luteinizing hormone (LH), but not follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), in intact PE females treated prepubertally with E2 implants. After the test with GnRH, PE rats were ovariectomized (OVX). Thirty days after OVX, similar GnRH administration significantly increased serum levels of both LH and FSH, but these responses were significantly (P less than 0.01) reduced when compared with those in OVX controls. Progesterone administration to estradiol benzoate-primed, acutely (3 days) OVX, or long-term (43 days) OVX-PE females did not increase LH or FSH release. These results indicate that exposure to exogenous estrogen or T prior to puberty precipitates the decline in estrous cyclicity associated with the loss of gonadotropin surge response, presumably due to an alteration in hypothalamic GnRH release.