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In utero exposure to the oestrogen mimic diethylstilbestrol disrupts gonadal development in a viviparous reptile

Laura M. Parsley A , Erik Wapstra A B and Susan M. Jones A

A School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tas. 7001, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: erik.wapstra@utas.edu.au

Reproduction, Fertility and Development - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RD13411
Submitted: 2 December 2013  Accepted: 19 March 2014   Published online: 10 April 2014


 
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Abstract

The ubiquitous presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the environment is of major concern. Studies on oviparous reptiles have significantly advanced knowledge in this field; however, 30% of reptilian species are viviparous (live-bearing), a parity mode in which both yolk and a placenta support embryonic development, thus exposure to EDCs may occur via multiple routes. In this first study of endocrine disruption in a viviparous lizard (Niveoscincus metallicus), we aimed to identify effects of the oestrogen mimic diethylstilbestrol (DES) on gonadal development. At the initiation of sexual differentiation, pregnant N. metallicus were treated with a single dose of DES at 100 or 10 µg kg­–1, a vehicle solvent or received no treatment. There was no dose-response effect, but the testes of male neonates born to DES-exposed mothers showed reduced organisation of seminiferous tubules and a lack of germ cells compared with those from control groups. The ovaries of female neonates born to DES-exposed mothers exhibited phenotypic abnormalities of ovarian structure, oocytes and follicles compared with controls. The results indicate that, in viviparous lizards, maternal exposure to oestrogenic EDCs during gestation may have profound consequences for offspring reproductive fitness.

Additional keywords: endocrine disruption, oestrogenic, ovary, placenta, testis, viviparity.


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