The Reproductive Effects of Hormonally Active Environmental Agents
Efforts during the past 50 or more years to improve agricultural productivity and manufacturing processes have led to the introduction of numerous man-made chemicals into the environment. In the course of this chapter, these chemicals, generally, will be referred to as environmental toxicants or xenobiotics. It is now known that many of these chemicals have unexpected effects on the animal populations of the planet and one expects that such effects have occurred or will occur in the human population. The untoward effects that are of particular interest to us in the context of reproductive biology are effects that interfere with the normal development and function of the male and female reproductive systems and which lead to reduced fertility, infertility, or sterility. Although the mechanisms by which environmental toxicants cause their disruptive effects on reproduction were at first elusive, it is now clear that many act by interfering with the physiological regulation of reproductive processes by sex-steroid hormones. Other environmental toxicants act through other mechanisms, such as the thyroid hormone receptor and through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (1, 2). This chapter will concentrate exclusively on xenobiotics that act through the sex-steroid hormone pathway since these hormones are known to be intimately involved in regulating reproductive processes.
KeywordsEstrogen Receptor Androgen Receptor Reproductive Tract External Genitalia Female Reproductive Tract
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