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Key Event Relationship Overview

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Description of Relationship

Upstream Event Downstream Event/Outcome
Aromatase, Inhibition 17beta-estradiol synthesis by ovarian granulosa cells, Reduction

AOPs Referencing Relationship

AOP Name Type of Relationship Weight of Evidence Quantitative Understanding
Aromatase inhibition leading to reproductive dysfunction Directly Leads to Strong Moderate

Taxonomic Applicability

Name Scientific Name Evidence Links

How Does This Key Event Relationship Work

Biological Plausibility

Within the ovary, aromatase expression and activity is primarily localized in the granulosa cells (reviewed in (Norris 2007; Yaron 1995; Havelock et al. 2004) and others). C-19 androgens diffuse from the theca cells into granulosa cells where aromatase can catalyze their conversion to C-18 estrogens. Therefore, inhibition of ovarian aromatase activity can generally be assumed to directly impact E2 synthesis by the granulosa cells.

Weight of Evidence

Empirical Support for Linkage

  • Known aromatase inhibitors including fadrozole and prochloraz were shown to cause concentration-dependent inhibition of aromatase activity in fathead minnow ovary homogenates (Villeneuve et al. 2006; Ankley et al. 2005).
  • Fadrozole and prochloraz also cause concentration-dependent decreases in E2 production by fathead minnow ovary explants exposed in vitro (Villeneuve et al. 2007).
  • Following in vivo exposure to fadrozole or prochloraz, ex vivo E2 production is significantly decreased in a concentration-dependent manner early in the time-course following exposure, although depending on the concentration, compensatory responses may offset the direct impact later in the exposure time-course (Villeneuve et al. 2006; Villeneuve et al. 2009; Ankley et al. 2009a; Skolness et al. 2011).

Uncertainties or Inconsistencies

Based on the limited set of studies available to date, there are no known inconsistencies.

Quantitative Understanding of the Linkage

Several mechanistically-based models of ovarian steroidogenesis have been developed (Breen et al. 2013; Breen et al. 2007; Shoemaker et al. 2010; Quignot and Bois 2013).

  • The Breen et al. 2007 model was developed based on in vitro experiments with fathead minnow ovary tissue, and considers effects on steroidogenesis within the ovary only.
  • The Breen et al. 2013 model was developed based on in vivo time-course data for fathead minnow and incorporates prediction of compensatory responses resulting from feedback mechanisms operating as part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.
  • The Shoemaker et al. 2010 model is chimeric and includes signaling pathways and aspects of transcriptional regulation based on a mixture of fish-specific and mammalian sources.
  • The Quignot and Bois 2013 model was designed to predict rat ovarian steroid secretion based on in vitro experiments with endocrine disrupting chemicals.

These may be adaptable to predict in vitro E2 production and/or plasma E2 concentrations from in vitro or in vivo measurements of aromatase inhibition.

Evidence Supporting Taxonomic Applicability

Aromatase (CYP19) orthologs are known to be present among most of the vertebrate lineage, at least down to the cartilaginous fishes. Orthologs have generally not been found in invertebrates, however, CYP19 was detected in the invertebrate chordate, amphioxus and analysis of conservation of gene order and content suggests a possible origin among primitive chordates (Castro et al. 2005).


  • Norris DO. 2007. Vertebrate Endocrinology. Fourth ed. New York: Academic Press.
  • Yaron Z. 1995. Endocrine control of gametogenesis and spawning induction in the carp. Aquaculture 129: 49-73.
  • Havelock JC, Rainey WE, Carr BR. 2004. Ovarian granulosa cell lines. Molecular and cellular endocrinology 228(1-2): 67-78.
  • Villeneuve DL, Knoebl I, Kahl MD, Jensen KM, Hammermeister DE, Greene KJ, et al. 2006. Relationship between brain and ovary aromatase activity and isoform-specific aromatase mRNA expression in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Aquat Toxicol 76(3-4): 353-368.
  • Ankley GT, Jensen KM, Durhan EJ, Makynen EA, Butterworth BC, Kahl MD, et al. 2005. Effects of two fungicides with multiple modes of action on reproductive endocrine function in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Toxicol Sci 86(2): 300-308.
  • Villeneuve DL, Ankley GT, Makynen EA, Blake LS, Greene KJ, Higley EB, et al. 2007. Comparison of fathead minnow ovary explant and H295R cell-based steroidogenesis assays for identifying endocrine-active chemicals. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 68(1): 20-32.
  • Villeneuve DL, Mueller ND, Martinovic D, Makynen EA, Kahl MD, Jensen KM, et al. 2009. Direct effects, compensation, and recovery in female fathead minnows exposed to a model aromatase inhibitor. Environ Health Perspect 117(4): 624-631.
  • Ankley GT, Bencic D, Cavallin JE, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Makynen EA, et al. 2009a. Dynamic nature of alterations in the endocrine system of fathead minnows exposed to the fungicide prochloraz. Toxicol Sci 112(2): 344-353.
  • Skolness SY, Durhan EJ, Garcia-Reyero N, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Makynen EA, et al. 2011. Effects of a short-term exposure to the fungicide prochloraz on endocrine function and gene expression in female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Aquat Toxicol 103(3-4): 170-178.
  • Breen M, Villeneuve DL, Ankley GT, Bencic DC, Breen MS, Watanabe KH, et al. 2013. Developing Predictive Approaches to Characterize Adaptive Responses of the Reproductive Endocrine Axis to Aromatase Inhibition: II. Computational Modeling. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology.
  • Breen MS, Villeneuve DL, Breen M, Ankley GT, Conolly RB. 2007. Mechanistic computational model of ovarian steroidogenesis to predict biochemical responses to endocrine active compounds. Annals of biomedical engineering 35(6): 970-981.
  • Shoemaker JE, Gayen K, Garcia-Reyero N, Perkins EJ, Villeneuve DL, Liu L, et al. 2010. Fathead minnow steroidogenesis: in silico analyses reveals tradeoffs between nominal target efficacy and robustness to cross-talk. BMC systems biology 4: 89.
  • Quignot N, Bois FY. 2013. A computational model to predict rat ovarian steroid secretion from in vitro experiments with endocrine disruptors. PloS one 8(1): e53891.