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In vivo effects of chronic contamination with 137 cesium on testicular and adrenal steroidogenesis


More than 20 years after Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion, radionuclids are still mainly bound to the organic soil layers. The radiation exposure is dominated by the external exposure to gamma-radiation following the decay of 137Cs and by soil-to-plant-to-human transfer of 137Cs into the food chain. Because of this persistence of contamination with 137Cs, questions regarding public health for people living in contaminated areas were raised. We investigated the biological effects of chronic exposure to 137Cs on testicular and adrenal steroidogenesis metabolisms in rat. Animals were exposed to radionuclide in their drinking water for 9 months at a dose of 6,500 Bq/l (610 Bq/kg/day). Cesium contamination decreases the level of circulating 17β-estradiol, and increases corticosterone level. In testis, several nuclear receptors messenger expression is disrupted; levels of mRNA encoding Liver X receptor α (LXRα) and LXRβ are increased, whereas farnesoid X receptor mRNA presents a lower level. Adrenal metabolism presents a paradoxical decrease in cyp11a1 gene expression. In conclusion, our results show for the first time molecular and hormonal modifications in testicular and adrenal steroidogenic metabolism, induced by chronic contamination with low doses of 137Cs.

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Fig. 1
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Cytochrome P450


Cesium 137


Hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase


Farnesoid X receptor


Liver X receptor


Retinoid X receptor


Small heterodimeric partner


Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein


3 Beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase


17 Beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase


Steroidogenic factor 1


5 Alpha reductase type1


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The authors thank T. Loiseau, F. Voyer, and C. Baudelin for their assistance during animal exposure and experimentation. This study was part of the ENVIRHOM research program supported by the Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN). JMAL is supported by the CNRS, Université Blaise Pascal, Fondation BNP-Paribas and Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale.

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Correspondence to Maâmar Souidi.

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Grignard, E., Guéguen, Y., Grison, S. et al. In vivo effects of chronic contamination with 137 cesium on testicular and adrenal steroidogenesis. Arch Toxicol 82, 583–589 (2008).

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  • Steroidogenesis
  • Testis
  • Adrenal
  • Cesium
  • Chronic contamination