Key Event Title
|Level of Biological Organization|
Key Event Components
|androgen receptor signaling pathway||Musculature of male perineum||disrupted|
Key Event Overview
AOPs Including This Key Event
|AOP Name||Role of event in AOP|
|5α-reductase inhibition leading to short AGD||AdverseOutcome|
|AR antagonism leading to short AGD||AdverseOutcome|
|Decreased testosterone synthesis leading to short AGD||AdverseOutcome|
Key Event Description
The anogenital distance (AGD) refers to the distance between anus and the external genitalia. In rodents and humans, the male AGD is approximately twice the length as the female AGD (Salazar-Martinez et al, 2004; Schwartz et al, 2019). This sexual dimorphisms is a consequence of sex hormone-dependent development of secondary sexual characteristics (Schwartz et al, 2019). In males, it is believed that androgens (primarily DHT) activate AR-positive cells in non-myotic cells in the fetal perineum region to initiate differentiation of the perineal levator ani and bulbocavernosus (LABC) muscle complex (Ipulan et al, 2014). This AR-dependent process occurs within a critical window of development, around gestational days 15-18 in rats (MacLeod et al, 2010). In females, the absence of DHT prevents this masculinization effect from occurring.
The involvement of androgens in masculinization of the male fetus, including the perineum, has been known for a very long time (Jost, 1953), and AGD has historically been used to, for instance, sex newborn kittens. It is now well established that the AGD in newborns is a proxy readout for the intrauterine sex hormone milieu the fetus was developing. Too low androgen levels in XY fetuses makes the male AGD shorter, whereas excess (ectopic) androgen levels in XX fetuses makes the female AGD longer, in humans and rodents (Schwartz et al, 2019).
How It Is Measured or Detected
The AGD is a morphometric measurement carried out by trained technicians (rodents) or medical staff (humans).
In rodent studies AGD is assessed as the distance between the genital papilla and the anus, and measured using a stereomicroscope with a micrometer eyepiece. The AGD index (AGDi) is often calculated by dividing AGD by the cube root of the body weight. It is important in statistical analysis to use litter as the statistical unit. This is done when more than one pup from each litter is examined. Statistical analyses is adjusted using litter as an independent, random and nested factor. AGD are analysed using body weight as covariate as recommended in Guidance Document 151 (OECD, 2013).
Domain of Applicability
A short AGD in male offspring is a marker of insufficient androgen action during critical fetal developmental stages (Schwartz et al, 2019; Welsh et al, 2008). A short AGD is thus a sign of undervirilization, which is also associated with a series of male reproductive disorders, including genital malformations and infertility in humans (Juul et al, 2014; Skakkebaek et al, 2001).
There are numerous human epidemiological studies showing associations with intrauterine exposure to anti-androgenic chemicals and short AGD in newborn boys alongside other reproductive disorders (Schwartz et al, 2019). This underscores the human relevance of this AO. However, in reproductive toxicity studies and chemical risk assessment, rodents (rats and mice) are what is tested on. The list of chemicals inducing short male AGD in male rat offspring is extensive, as evidenced by the ‘stressor’ list and reviewed by (Schwartz et al, 2019).
Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor
Butylparaben has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 500 and 1000 mg/kg bw/day (Boberg et al, 2016; Zhang et al, 2014). A separate study using 600 mg/kg bw/day did not see an effect on male AGD (Boberg et al, 2008).
DEHP has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 300-1500 mg/kg bw/day (Christiansen et al, 2010; Gray et al, 2000; Howdeshell et al, 2007; Jarfelt et al, 2005; Kita et al, 2016; Li et al, 2013; Lin et al, 2009; Moore et al, 2001; Nardelli et al, 2017; Saillenfait et al, 2009; Wolf et al, 1999).
Dexamethasone has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 0.1 mg/kg bw/day (Van den Driesche et al, 2012).
Fenitrothion has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 25 mg/kg bw/day (Turner et al, 2002).
Finasteride has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 100 mg/kg bw/day (Bowman et al, 2003).
Flutamide has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to doses between 16-100 mg/kg bw/day (Foster & Harris, 2005; Hass et al, 2007; Kita et al, 2016; McIntyre et al, 2001; Mylchreest et al, 1999; Scott et al, 2007; Welsh et al, 2007).
Ketoconazole has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 50 mg/kg bw/day in one study (Taxvig et al, 2008), but no effect in another study using same dose (Wolf et al, 1999).
Triticonazole has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 150 and 450 mg/kg bw/day (Draskau et al, 2019).
Vinclozolin has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to doses between 50-200 mg/kg bw/day (Christiansen et al, 2009; Gray et al, 1994; Hass et al, 2007; Matsuura et al, 2005; Ostby et al, 1999; Schneider et al, 2011; Wolf et al, 2004).
butyl benzyl phthalate
BBP has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 500-1000 mg/kg bw/day (Ema & Miyawaki, 2002; Gray et al, 2000; Hotchkiss et al, 2004; Nagao et al, 2000; Tyl et al, 2004).
MBeP has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 375 mg/kg bw/day (Ema et al, 2003).
DHPP has been shown to cause decreased male AGD in rats following intrauterine exposure to 1000 mg/kg bw/day (Saillenfait et al, 2011).
Regulatory Significance of the Adverse Outcome
In regulatory toxicology, the AGD is mandatory inclusions in OECD test guidelines used to test for developmental and reproductive toxicity of chemicals. Guidelines include ‘TG 443 extended one-generation study’, ‘TG 421/422 reproductive toxicity screening studies’ and ‘TG 414 developmental toxicity study’.
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