The effects of environmental hormones on reproduction
- Cite this article as:
- Danzo, B. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. (1998) 54: 1249. doi:10.1007/s000180050251
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Considerable attention has been given in the past few years to the possibility that man-made chemicals (xenobiotics) in the environment may pose a hazard to human reproductive health. The endocrine-disrupting effects of many xenobiotics can be interpreted as interference with the normal regulation of reproductive processes by steroid hormones. Evidence reviewed here indicates that xenobiotics bind to androgen and oestrogen receptors in target tissues, and to androgen-binding protein and to sex hormone-binding globulin. Although environmental chemicals have weak hormonal activity, their ability to interact with more than one steroid-sensitive pathway provides a mechanism by which their hazardous nature can be augmented. A given toxicant may be present in low concentration in the environment and, therefore, harmless. However, we are not exposed to one toxicant at a time, but, rather, to all of the xenobiotics present in the environment. Therefore, numerous potential agonists/antagonists working together through several steroid-dependent signalling pathways could prove to be hazardous to human reproductive health.