Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 378, Issue 3, pp 582–587 | Cite as

Xenoestrogens: mechanisms of action and detection methods

  • Stefan O. MuellerEmail author


Estrogenic compounds exert pleiotropic effects in wildlife and humans, and endogenous estrogens, like 17β-estradiol, regulate growth and development of their target tissues. Environmental, industrial, or naturally occurring chemicals that possess estrogenic and/or antiestrogenic activities are termed xenoestrogens and may interfere with endocrine systems. These xenoestrogens are therefore defined as endocrine-active or endocrine-disrupting compounds. The estrogen receptor (ER) is the major regulatory unit within the estrogen-signaling pathway and the molecular mechanisms of estrogen and ER actions are described briefly. Based on the mechanism of ER action, in vitro test systems are described that can be employed for screening but also for the elucidation of mechanisms of action of (anti)estrogenic compounds. How screening assays and mechanistic studies can aid in human risk assessment for potential endocrine-active compounds is discussed also.


Estrogen receptor ERα ERβ Endocrine-active compound Endocrine disruptor 



The author wishes to thank members of the Institute of Toxicology at Merck KGaA for fruitful discussion and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Molecular Toxicology, Institute of ToxicologyMerck KGaADarmstadtGermany

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