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Perspectives in Endocrine Toxicity of Heavy Metals—A Review

Abstract

An attempt has been made to review the endocrine/hormonal implications of a few environmentally significant metals, viz, lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, arsenic and nickel, in man and animals. Special emphasis has been given to the adrenals, thyroid, testis, ovary and pancreas. Toxic metals can cause structural and functional changes in the adrenal glands. Their effects on steroidogenesis have been reviewed. It has been reported that thyroid hormone kinetics are affected by a number of metallic compounds. Occupational exposure to a few of these metals can cause testicular injury and sex hormone disturbances. Protective effects of a few antioxidants on their reproductive toxicity have also been discussed. Information gathered on female reproductive toxicity of heavy metals shows that exposure to these metals can lead to disturbances in reproductive performance in exposed subjects. Certain metals can cause injury to the endocrine pancreas. Exposure to them can cause diabetes mellitus and disturb insulin homeostasis. The need to develop molecular markers of endocrine toxicity of heavy metals has been suggested. Overall information described in this review is expected to be helpful in planning future studies on endocrine toxicity of heavy metals.

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Abbreviations

c-AMP:

Cyclic adenosine monophosphate

ACTH:

Adrenocorticotrophic hormone

GH:

Growth hormone

TSH:

Thyroid-stimulating hormone

PbB:

Lead in blood

RAR:

Retinoic acid receptor

CNS:

Central nervous system

UDP:

Uridine phosphate

EPA:

Environmental Protection Agency

ROS:

Reactive oxygen species

ATSDR:

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

PGF:

Prostaglandin F

FSH:

Follicle-stimulating hormone

LH:

Luteinizing hormone

MT:

Metallothionein

HIT-T15:

Hamster insulinoma tumour β cells

RIN-m5F:

Radiation-induced β cells

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Acknowledgments

I am thankful to my colleagues Dr Y Verma and Mr Nitin Sharma for their skilful assistance in the preparation of this article.

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Correspondence to S. V. S. Rana.

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Rana, S.V.S. Perspectives in Endocrine Toxicity of Heavy Metals—A Review. Biol Trace Elem Res 160, 1–14 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12011-014-0023-7

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Keywords

  • Adrenals
  • Thyroid
  • Testis
  • Ovary
  • Pancreas
  • Lead
  • Mercury cadmium
  • Reproductive and endocrine toxicity