Effect of chronic low-dose phthalate exposure on the immature primate testis


Principal Investigator: Ina Dobrinski
Abstract: The objective of this exploratory research project is to study the effects of chronic exposure to phthalate esters on the infant primate testis in a novel xenograft model system. Environmental exposure to reproductive toxicants is of serious concern to human health and has been implicated in both the apparent decline of male fertility and a rise in testicular neoplasms. Phthalate esters are widely used as plasticizers in consumer products and can leach into the environment, resulting in significant human exposure, especially during childhood and in pediatric patients requiring long-term catheterization or intravenous treatments. Di-(2- ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is the most ubiquitous phthalate and its metabolite MEHP is a known testicular toxicant. Di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) is commonly found in personal care products and fetal exposure to DBP affects male reproductive tract development in rats. Historically, research into the reproductive toxicology of phthalates has been evaluated following gestational exposure in rodents, but species-specific differences in metabolism and sensitivity of the reproductive organs suggest that results obtained in rodent models may not extrapolate well to humans. As epidemiological studies link phthalate exposure during childhood to disturbances of human male reproductive development, there is a clear need for studies in primate models, as emphasized by the NTP-CERHR Expert Panel on the Reproductive and Developmental Toxicity of DEHP. In this revised exploratory project we propose to utilize a novel primate testis tissue xenografting system developed in our lab to study the effect of DEHP and DBP on testicular maturation and testis function in immature rhesus monkey testes. Specific aim 1 will test the hypothesis that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of DEHP or DBP will adversely affect testicular somatic cell function and germ cell development. Specifically, testis tissue from infant and juvenile monkeys will be ectopically grafted to mouse hosts and exposed to various doses of DEHP or DBP for 3 months. At various time points, Sertoli cell maturation, steroidogenic function of Leydig cells, and exogenous gonadotropin-induced germ cell differentiation will be compared in treated and control tissue to assess the potential effects of chronic phthalate exposure. Specific aim 2 will investigate the mechanisms underlying phthalate toxicity in the infant primate testis. Phthalate-induced changes in global gene expression patterns in testis tissue from infant monkeys will be evaluated by microarray analysis and confirmed by RT-PCR. Special attention will be given to differential expression of genes involved in steroidogenesis. Successful completion of this exploratory project will provide insights into the sensitivity to phthalate esters, characterize effects on testicular somatic cell maturation, and begin to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying phthalate toxicity in the immature primate testis. Results from the proposed project will provide the basis for future studies performed in the developing primate. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: Rodent models are conventionally utilized to study the potential effects of suspected reproductive toxicants, such as phthalates, on the immature human testis, but species-specific differences in metabolism and sensitivity of the reproductive organs may not make them ideal model systems. While studies in primates are more likely applicable to the human, they are often cost-prohibitive and ethically restrictive. In this research proposal we describe a novel system in which pieces of primate testis tissue are grafted into mice to investigate the mechanisms of reproductive phthalate toxicity in primate testis without extensive experimentation in primates.
Funding Period: 2008-08-08 - 2010-07-31
more information: NIH RePORT