Background: There is increasing concern that exposure to man-made substances that mimic endogenous hormones may adversely affect mammalian reproduction. Although a variety of reproductive complications have been ascribed to compounds with androgenic or estrogenic properties, little attention has been directed at the potential consequences of such exposures to the genetic quality of the gamete.
Results: A sudden, spontaneous increase in meiotic disturbances, including aneuploidy, in studies of oocytes from control female mice in our laboratory coincided with the accidental exposure of our animals to an environmental source of bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an estrogenic compound widely used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. We identified damaged caging material as the source of the exposure, as we were able to recapitulate the meiotic abnormalities by intentionally damaging cages and water bottles. In subsequent studies of female mice, we administered daily oral doses of BPA to directly test the hypothesis that low levels of BPA disrupt female meiosis. Our results demonstrated that the meiotic effects were dose dependent and could be induced by environmentally relevant doses of BPA.
Conclusions: Both the initial inadvertent exposure and subsequent experimental studies suggest that BPA is a potent meiotic aneugen. Specifically, in the female mouse, short-term, low-dose exposure during the final stages of oocyte growth is sufficient to elicit detectable meiotic effects. These results provide the first unequivocal link between mammalian meiotic aneuploidy and an accidental environmental exposure and suggest that the oocyte and its meiotic spindle will provide a sensitive assay system for the study of reproductive toxins.