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Relationship: 32


The title of the KER should clearly define the two KEs being considered and the sequential relationship between them (i.e., which is upstream and which is downstream). Consequently all KER titles take the form “upstream KE leads to downstream KE”.  More help

Agonism, Androgen receptor leads to Reduction, Testosterone synthesis by ovarian theca cells

Upstream event
Upstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help
Downstream event
Downstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help

Key Event Relationship Overview

The utility of AOPs for regulatory application is defined, to a large extent, by the confidence and precision with which they facilitate extrapolation of data measured at low levels of biological organisation to predicted outcomes at higher levels of organisation and the extent to which they can link biological effect measurements to their specific causes. Within the AOP framework, the predictive relationships that facilitate extrapolation are represented by the KERs. Consequently, the overall WoE for an AOP is a reflection in part, of the level of confidence in the underlying series of KERs it encompasses. Therefore, describing the KERs in an AOP involves assembling and organising the types of information and evidence that defines the scientific basis for inferring the probable change in, or state of, a downstream KE from the known or measured state of an upstream KE. More help

AOPs Referencing Relationship

This table is automatically generated upon addition of a KER to an AOP. All of the AOPs that are linked to this KER will automatically be listed in this subsection. Clicking on the name of the AOP in the table will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Adjacency Weight of Evidence Quantitative Understanding Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Androgen receptor agonism leading to reproductive dysfunction (in repeat-spawning fish) non-adjacent Moderate Low Dan Villeneuve (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed

Taxonomic Applicability

Select one or more structured terms that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KER. In general, this will be dictated by the more restrictive of the two KEs being linked together by the KER. Authors can indicate the relevant taxa for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 30-31 and 37-38 of User Handbook) More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas High NCBI
Fundulus heteroclitus Fundulus heteroclitus Moderate NCBI

Sex Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant sex for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of the User Handbook). More help
Sex Evidence
Female High

Life Stage Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant life stage for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of User Handbook). More help
Term Evidence
Adult, reproductively mature High

Key Event Relationship Description

Provide a brief, descriptive summation of the KER. While the title itself is fairly descriptive, this section can provide details that aren’t inherent in the description of the KEs themselves (see page 39 of the User Handbook). This description section can be viewed as providing the increased specificity in the nature of upstream perturbation (KEupstream) that leads to a particular downstream perturbation (KEdownstream), while allowing the KE descriptions to remain generalised so they can be linked to different AOPs. The description is also intended to provide a concise overview for readers who may want a brief summation, without needing to read through the detailed support for the relationship (covered below). Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs that are not part of this KER, other KERs or other AOPs. This will ensure that the KER is modular and can be used by other AOPs. More help

At present, a direct structural/functional linkage between androgen receptor agonism and reduced testosterone production by ovarian theca cells is not known.  This linkage is thought to operate indirectly through endocrine feedback along the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. Consequently, the relationship is supported primarily via association/correlation.

Evidence Supporting this KER

Assembly and description of the scientific evidence supporting KERs in an AOP is an important step in the AOP development process that sets the stage for overall assessment of the AOP (see pages 49-56 of the User Handbook). To do this, biological plausibility, empirical support, and the current quantitative understanding of the KER are evaluated with regard to the predictive relationships/associations between defined pairs of KEs as a basis for considering WoE (page 55 of User Handbook). In addition, uncertainties and inconsistencies are considered. More help
Biological Plausibility
Define, in free text, the biological rationale for a connection between KEupstream and KEdownstream. What are the structural or functional relationships between the KEs? For example, there is a functional relationship between an enzyme’s activity and the product of a reaction it catalyses. Supporting references should be included. However, it is recognised that there may be cases where the biological relationship between two KEs is very well established, to the extent that it is widely accepted and consistently supported by so much literature that it is unnecessary and impractical to cite the relevant primary literature. Citation of review articles or other secondary sources, like text books, may be reasonable in such cases. The primary intent is to provide scientifically credible support for the structural and/or functional relationship between the pair of KEs if one is known. The description of biological plausibility can also incorporate additional mechanistic details that help inform the relationship between KEs, this is useful when it is not practical/pragmatic to represent these details as separate KEs due to the difficulty or relative infrequency with which it is likely to be measured (see page 40 of the User Handbook for further information).   More help

Synthesis of the steroidogenic enzymes that catalyze the formation of testosterone from cholesterol as a precursor is stimulated by gonadotropins, particulary luteinizing hormone, whose synthesis and secretion are in turn regulated by gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) released from the hypothalamus (Payne and Hales 2004; Norris 2007; Miller 1988). Negative feedback of circulating androgens (e.g., testosterone) on GnRH release from the hypothalamus and/or gonadotropin release from the pituitary is a well established physiological phenomenon in vertebrate endocrinology (Norris 2007). While similar processes of negative feedback of sex steroids on gonadotropin expression and release have been established in fish (Levavi-Sivan et al. 2010), there are many remaining uncertainties about the exact mechanisms through which feedback takes place in fish as well as other vertebrates. For example, feedback is thought to involve a complex interplay of neurotransmitter signaling, kisspeptins, and the follistatin/inhibin/activin system (Trudeau et al. 2000; Trudeau 1997; Oakley et al. 2009; Cheng et al. 2007). In addition, the nature of the feedback produced by androgens is dependent on the concentration, form of the androgen (e.g., aromatizable versus non-aromatizable), life-stage and likely species (Habibi and Huggard 1998; Trudeau et al. 2000; Gopurappilly et al. 2013). At present, such negative feedback responses in vivo provide a biologically plausible connection between androgen receptor agonism and reducted testosterone production in ovarian theca cells, but uncertainty regarding the details of the underlying biology and the relevant applicability domain remain.

Uncertainties and Inconsistencies
In addition to outlining the evidence supporting a particular linkage, it is also important to identify inconsistencies or uncertainties in the relationship. Additionally, while there are expected patterns of concordance that support a causal linkage between the KEs in the pair, it is also helpful to identify experimental details that may explain apparent deviations from the expected patterns of concordance. Identification of uncertainties and inconsistencies contribute to evaluation of the overall WoE supporting the AOPs that contain a given KER and to the identification of research gaps that warrant investigation (seep pages 41-42 of the User Handbook).Given that AOPs are intended to support regulatory applications, AOP developers should focus on those inconsistencies or gaps that would have a direct bearing or impact on the confidence in the KER and its use as a basis for inference or extrapolation in a regulatory setting. Uncertainties that may be of academic interest but would have little impact on regulatory application don’t need to be described. In general, this section details evidence that may raise questions regarding the overall validity and predictive utility of the KER (including consideration of both biological plausibility and empirical support). It also contributes along with several other elements to the overall evaluation of the WoE for the KER (see Section 4 of the User Handbook).  More help

See biological plausibility section above regarding current uncertainties in the mechanisms through which AR agonists may reduce gonadotropin secretion.

  • Rutherford et al. (2015) reported an increase in plasma T concentrations in female and no change in gonadal T production in Fundulus heteroclitus following 14 d of exposure to 100 ug/L 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone.
Response-response Relationship
This subsection should be used to define sources of data that define the response-response relationships between the KEs. In particular, information regarding the general form of the relationship (e.g., linear, exponential, sigmoidal, threshold, etc.) should be captured if possible. If there are specific mathematical functions or computational models relevant to the KER in question that have been defined, those should also be cited and/or described where possible, along with information concerning the approximate range of certainty with which the state of the KEdownstream can be predicted based on the measured state of the KEupstream (i.e., can it be predicted within a factor of two, or within three orders of magnitude?). For example, a regression equation may reasonably describe the response-response relationship between the two KERs, but that relationship may have only been validated/tested in a single species under steady state exposure conditions. Those types of details would be useful to capture.  More help
This sub-section should be used to provide information regarding the approximate time-scale of the changes in KEdownstream relative to changes in KEupstream (i.e., do effects on KEdownstream lag those on KEupstream by seconds, minutes, hours, or days?). This can be useful information both in terms of modelling the KER, as well as for analyzing the critical or dominant paths through an AOP network (e.g., identification of an AO that could kill an organism in a matter of hours will generally be of higher priority than other potential AOs that take weeks or months to develop). Identification of time-scale can also aid the assessment of temporal concordance. For example, for a KER that operates on a time-scale of days, measurement of both KEs after just hours of exposure in a short-term experiment could lead to incorrect conclusions regarding dose-response or temporal concordance if the time-scale of the upstream to downstream transition was not considered. More help
Known modulating factors
This sub-section presents information regarding modulating factors/variables known to alter the shape of the response-response function that describes the quantitative relationship between the two KEs (for example, an iodine deficient diet causes a significant increase in the slope of the relationship; a particular genotype doubles the sensitivity of KEdownstream to changes in KEupstream). Information on these known modulating factors should be listed in this subsection, along with relevant information regarding the manner in which the modulating factor can be expected to alter the relationship (if known). Note, this section should focus on those modulating factors for which solid evidence supported by relevant data and literature is available. It should NOT list all possible/plausible modulating factors. In this regard, it is useful to bear in mind that many risk assessments conducted through conventional apical guideline testing-based approaches generally consider few if any modulating factors. More help
Known Feedforward/Feedback loops influencing this KER
This subsection should define whether there are known positive or negative feedback mechanisms involved and what is understood about their time-course and homeostatic limits? In some cases where feedback processes are measurable and causally linked to the outcome, they should be represented as KEs. However, in most cases these features are expected to predominantly influence the shape of the response-response, time-course, behaviours between selected KEs. For example, if a feedback loop acts as compensatory mechanism that aims to restore homeostasis following initial perturbation of a KE, the feedback loop will directly shape the response-response relationship between the KERs. Given interest in formally identifying these positive or negative feedback, it is recommended that a graphical annotation (page 44) indicating a positive or negative feedback loop is involved in a particular upstream to downstream KE transition (KER) be added to the graphical representation, and that details be provided in this subsection of the KER description (see pages 44-45 of the User Handbook).  More help

Domain of Applicability

As for the KEs, there is also a free-text section of the KER description that the developer can use to explain his/her rationale for the structured terms selected with regard to taxonomic, life stage, or sex applicability, or provide a more generalizable or nuanced description of the applicability domain than may be feasible using standardized terms. More help

This KER is potentially relevant to sexually mature female vertebrates and amphioxus. It is not relevant to invertebrates. 

  • Androgen receptor orthologs are primarily limited to vertebrates (Baker 1997; Thornton 2001; Eick and Thornton 2011; Markov and Laudet 2011). 
  • Cytochrome P45011a (Cyp11a), a rate limiting enzyme for the production of testosterone, is specific to vertebrates and amphioxus (Markov et al. 2009; Baker et al. 2011; Payne and Hales, 2004).
  • Cyp11a does not occur in invertebrates, as a result, they do not synthesize testosterone, nor other steroid intermediates required for testosterone synthesis (Markov et al. 2009; Payne and Hales, 2004). 


List of the literature that was cited for this KER description using the appropriate format. Ideally, the list of references should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide (OECD, 2015). More help
  • Baker ME. 1997. Steroid receptor phylogeny and vertebrate origins. Molecular and cellular endocrinology 135(2): 101-107.
  • Baker ME. 2011. Origin and diversification of steroids: Co-evolution of enzymes and nuclear receptors. Mol Cell Endocrinol 334: 14-20.
  • Cheng GF, Yuen CW, Ge W. 2007. Evidence for the existence of a local activin follistatin negative feedback loop in the goldfish pituitary and its regulation by activin and gonadal steroids. The Journal of endocrinology 195(3): 373-384.
  • Eick GN, Thornton JW. 2011. Evolution of steroid receptors from an estrogen-sensitive ancestral receptor. Molecular and cellular endocrinology 334(1-2): 31-38.
  • Ekman DR, Villeneuve DL, Teng Q, Ralston-Hooper KJ, Martinović-Weigelt D, Kahl MD, Jensen KM, Durhan EJ, Makynen EA, Ankley GT, Collette TW. Use of gene expression, biochemical and metabolite profiles to enhance exposure and effects assessment of the model androgen 17β-trenbolone in fish. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2011 Feb;30(2):319-29. doi: 10.1002/etc.406.
  • ​​Ankley GT, Jensen KM, Makynen EA, Kahl MD, Korte JJ, Hornung MW, Henry TR, Denny JS, Leino RL, Wilson VS, Cardon MC, Hartig PC, Gray LE. Effects of the androgenic growth promoter 17-beta-trenbolone on fecundity and reproductive endocrinology of the fathead minnow. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2003 Jun;22(6):1350-60.
  • Glinka CO, Frasca S Jr, Provatas AA, Lama T, DeGuise S, Bosker T. The effects of model androgen 5α-dihydrotestosterone on mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) reproduction under different salinities. Aquat Toxicol. 2015 Aug;165:266-76. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2015.05.019.
  • Gopurappilly R, Ogawa S, Parhar IS. 2013. Functional significance of GnRH and kisspeptin, and their cognate receptors in teleost reproduction. Frontiers in endocrinology 4: 24.
  • Habibi HR, Huggard DL. 1998. Testosterone regulation of gonadotropin production in goldfish. Comparative biochemistry and physiology Part C, Pharmacology, toxicology & endocrinology 119(3): 339-344.
  • Jensen KM, Makynen EA, Kahl MD, Ankley GT. Effects of the feedlot contaminant 17alpha-trenbolone on reproductive endocrinology of the fathead minnow. Environ Sci Technol. 2006 May 1;40(9):3112-7.
  • LaLone CA, Villeneuve DL, Cavallin JE, Kahl MD, Durhan EJ, Makynen EA, Jensen KM, Stevens KE, Severson MN, Blanksma CA, Flynn KM, Hartig PC, Woodard JS, Berninger JP, Norberg-King TJ, Johnson RD, Ankley GT. Cross-species sensitivity to a novel androgen receptor agonist of potential environmental concern, spironolactone. Environ Toxicol Chem. 2013 Nov;32(11):2528-41. doi: 10.1002/etc.2330.
  • Levavi-Sivan B, Bogerd J, Mananos EL, Gomez A, Lareyre JJ. 2010. Perspectives on fish gonadotropins and their receptors. General and comparative endocrinology 165(3): 412-437.
  • Li Z, Kroll KJ, Jensen KM, Villeneuve DL, Ankley GT, Brian JV, Sepúlveda MS, Orlando EF, Lazorchak JM, Kostich M, Armstrong B, Denslow ND, Watanabe KH. A computational model of the hypothalamic: pituitary: gonadal axis in female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) exposed to 17α-ethynylestradiol and 17β-trenbolone. BMC Syst Biol. 2011 May 5;5:63. doi: 10.1186/1752-0509-5-63.
  • Markov GV, Laudet V. 2011. Origin and evolution of the ligand-binding ability of nuclear receptors. Molecular and cellular endocrinology 334(1-2): 21-30.
  • Markov GV, Tavares R, Dauphin-Villemant C, Demeneix BA, Baker ME, Laudet V. Independent elaboration of steroid hormone signaling pathways in metazoans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jul 21;106(29):11913-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812138106.
  • Miller WL. 1988. Molecular biology of steroid hormone synthesis. Endocrine reviews 9(3): 295-318.
  • Norris DO. 2007. Vertebrate Endocrinology. Fourth ed. New York: Academic Press.
  • Oakley AE, Clifton DK, Steiner RA. 2009. Kisspeptin signaling in the brain. Endocrine reviews 30(6): 713-743.
  • Payne AH, Hales DB. 2004. Overview of steroidogenic enzymes in the pathway from cholesterol to active steroid hormones. Endocrine reviews 25(6): 947-970.
  • Rutherford R, Lister A, Hewitt LM, MacLatchy D. Effects of model aromatizable (17α-methyltestosterone) and non-aromatizable (5α-dihydrotestosterone) androgens on the adult mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) in a short-term reproductive endocrine bioassay. Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2015 Apr;170:8-18. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2015.01.004.
  • Sharpe RL, MacLatchy DL, Courtenay SC, Van Der Kraak GJ. Effects of a model androgen (methyl testosterone) and a model anti-androgen (cyproterone acetate) on reproductive endocrine endpoints in a short-term adult mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) bioassay. Aquat Toxicol. 2004 Apr 28;67(3):203-15.
  • Thornton JW. 2001. Evolution of vertebrate steroid receptors from an ancestral estrogen receptor by ligand exploitation and serial genome expansions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 98(10): 5671-5676.
  • Trudeau VL, Spanswick D, Fraser EJ, Lariviére K, Crump D, Chiu S, et al. 2000. The role of amino acid neurotransmitters in the regulation of pituitary gonadotropin release in fish. Biochemistry and Cell Biology 78: 241-259.
  • Trudeau VL. 1997. Neuroendocrine regulation of gonadotropin II release and gonadal growth in the goldfish, Carassius auratus. Reviews of Reproduction 2: 55-68.