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Reduction, testosterone level leads to Malformation, Male reproductive tract
Key Event Relationship Overview
AOPs Referencing Relationship
|AOP Name||Adjacency||Weight of Evidence||Quantitative Understanding||Point of Contact||Author Status||OECD Status|
|PPARα activation in utero leading to impaired fertility in males||non-adjacent||High||Elise Grignard (send email)||Open for citation & comment||EAGMST Under Review|
Life Stage Applicability
Key Event Relationship Description
Male sexual differentiation in general depends on testosterone (T), dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and the expression of androgen receptors by target cells (Manson and Carr 2003). Disturbances in the balance of this endocrine system by either endogenous or exogenous factors may lead to male reproductive tract, malformations (e.g. hypospadias, cryptorchidism). Reduction in T levels during foetal development subsequently lower levels of its metabolite DHT lead also to impaired growth of the perineum with reduced anogential distance (AGD) (Bowman et al. 2003).
Evidence Supporting this KER
The role of foetal androgens (T and DHT) is crucial for the development of the male reproductive tract especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. Androgens regulate masculinization of external genitalia. T is necessary for stabilization and differentiation of the Wolffian structures (e.g., the epididymis, vas deferens and seminal vesicles) and also for normal development of the foetal testes; DHT, produced locally from testosterone, is required for normal development of the genital tubercle and urogenital sinus into the external genitalia and prostate (Murashima et al. 2015). Therefore any defects in androgen biosynthesis, metabolism or action during development can cause hypospadias (Rey et al. 2005). The environmental factors with anti-androgenic activity may alter the complex regulation of male sex differentiation during foetal life (Kalfa et al., 2008). Although the cause in most cases is unknown, hypospadias has been associated with aberrant androgen signalling during development (Wolf et al. 1999). The aetiology of this frequent malformation has not been elucidated despite intensive investigation (Kalfa, Philibert, and Sultan 2009). Hypospadias thus appears at the crossroads of genetic, endocrine and environmental mechanisms (Kalfa, Philibert, and Sultan 2009).
Anogential distance (AGD)
The anogenital distance (AGD) is a sexual dimorphism that results from the sex difference in foetal androgen (DHT) levels (Rhees et al., 1997). The AGD is a marker of perineal growth and caudal migration of the genital tubercle. It is androgen-dependent in male rodents (Bowman et al. 2003). During development, androgens stimulate the growth of the perineal region between the sex papilla and the anus, resulting in an increased AGD in male offspring (Bowman et al. 2003). The AGD, is believed to be a biomarker of prenatal androgen exposure in many species, and in humans it has been associated with several adverse reproductive health outcomes in adults. AGD reflects foetal androgen exposure only within a discrete masculinization programming window (MPW), during which development of male reproductive organs is taking place (Wolf et al. 1999), (Macleod et al. 2010).
Undescended testis (UDT), also called cryptorchidism, is the most frequent congenital malformation in males, occurring in 2–5% of full-term male births (Hadziselimovic 2002) (Brucker-Davis et al. 2008). Testosterone and insulin-like peptide 3 (INSL3) are two major Leydig cell hormones that regulate physiological testicular descent during foetal development (Virtanen et al. 2007). Most cases of cryptorchidism remain idiopathic but epidemiological and experimental studies have suggested a role of both genetic and environmental factors. Studies e. g.(Gray et al. 2000) have shown that maternal administration of certain chemicals (phthalate esters) during the critical intrauterine period of sexual differentiation alters development of both androgen- and insl3-dependent tissues. Cryptorchidism is shown to be linked with increased risk of hypofertility and testicular cancer (Fénichel et al. 2015).
Uncertainties and Inconsistencies
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between foetal estrogen exposure and hypospadias (Klip et al. 2002), (Brouwers et al. 2007). However, the molecular mechanism underlying this association is unknown (Wang and Baskin 2008), (Blaschko, Cunha, and Baskin 2012).
Anogential distance (AGD)
Study by Huang et al did not found associations with the phthalates metabolites in the male AGD, however in females in relation to amniotic fluid levels of MBP and MEHP (Huang et al. 2009).
Known modulating factors
Known Feedforward/Feedback loops influencing this KER
Domain of Applicability
Maternal exposure to estrogenic and antiandrogenic endocrine disrupting compounds has been implicated in increased risk of cryptorchidism and hypospadias in human male offspring without statistical significance (Morales-Suárez-Varela et al. 2011).
Across numerous species, including humans, AGD is longer in males compared to females; for review see (Barrett et al. 2014).
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