Effects of Dibutylphthalate on the Biosynthesis of Intermediates of the Androgen and Glucocorticoid Pathway in a Cultured Rat Leydig Cell Line (R2C)
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Phthalate esters (phthalates) such as dibutylphthalate (DBP) are commonly used as plasticisers and pesticides in a variety of products such as children‟s plastic toys, food packaging, cosmetics, medical equipment (including surgical equipment), and acaricides. Because of their widespread use phthalates are ubiquitous environmental contaminants that humans are commonly exposed to. Phthalates are known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that are well known to cause male reproductive defects such as cryptorchidism (failed descent of the testes) and hypospadias (malformations in the urethra) in a range of different species if they are exposed in utero. They do this by reducing testosterone production in Leydig cells, which are the primary site of testosterone biosynthesis in the male. Because phthalates are dose-additive they are considered to share the same mechanism of toxicity. However, the details of phthalates mechanism of toxicity are not fully understood. The aim of this research was to investigate the effects of DBP on the steroidogenesis pathway using the cultured rat Leydig cell cancer line R2C as a Leydig cell model. R2C cells were exposed to a range of DBP concentrations (10 μg/mL, 5 μg/mL, 1 μg/mL, and 0.1 μg/mL) and their steroid hormone production was analysed using reverse phase HPLC. R2C cells did not synthesise testosterone at detectable levels. However, DBP exposure stimulated cortisol biosynthesis at all concentrations but caused no change in progesterone biosynthesis. This cortisol stimulation in Leydig cells has not been observed before. Because cortisol and testosterone compete for precursors an increase in cortisol synthesis could starve testosterone synthesis of precursors. On top of this it has been shown that glucocorticoids including cortisol have an adverse effect on Leydig cell development reducing steroid production and even causing apoptosis. This could explain how DBP and other phthalates can cause male developmental defects such as cryptorchidism and hypospadias.