Effects of 4-tert-octylphenol, 4-tert-butylphenol, and diethylstilbestrol on prenatal testosterone surge in the rat

Reprod Toxicol. 2003 Sep-Oct;17(5):593-605. doi: 10.1016/s0890-6238(03)00103-5.


In the present study, we evaluated the effects that 4-tert-octylphenol (OP) and 4-tert-butylphenol (BP) had on the prenatal testicular testosterone surge at embryonic day (ED) 19.5 in the rat. In utero exposure to alkylphenols (0.1-100 mg/kg maternal weight) on EDs 13.5, 15.5, and 17.5 did not decrease testicular testosterone content, whereas exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) caused a significant depression in testosterone synthesis and secretion. The depression was maintained during ex vivo tissue culture. In order to elucidate the observed differences in the in vivo effects between alkylphenols and DES, the exposures were also carried out in tissue culture of intact ED 19.5 testes. Basal testosterone, progesterone, cAMP production and hCG-induced testosterone levels were determined during and after a 3-h culture period. DES (100 mg/l) did not alter testosterone production but caused a two-fold increase in progesterone. OP (10, 100, 500 mg/l) and BP (100 mg/l) significantly increased testosterone and progesterone levels by up to seven-fold. In the presence of BP 100 mg/l, however, the intratesticular testosterone content did not correlate with the significantly increased fraction of secreted, or leaked, testosterone. The latter was correlated with tissue damage observed at electron microscopic level. Consistent with this, BP 500 mg/l elevated testicular testosterone level slightly during the first hour in the culture but the level subsequently returned to the control value. At the electron microscopic level, alkylphenols caused most severe changes in Leydig cell membrane structures and lipid droplets. In the DES-treated testes, membrane vesicle formation around the lipid droplets and increased mitochondrial pleiomorphy were observed. Altogether, the present in vivo and in vitro analyses confirm different effects of alkylphenols and DES on fetal rat steroidogenesis and tissue structure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Diethylstilbestrol / toxicity
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Leydig Cells / drug effects
  • Leydig Cells / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Phenols / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Surface-Active Agents / toxicity*
  • Testis / drug effects
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Testis / ultrastructure
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Phenols
  • Surface-Active Agents
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • 4-tert-octylphenol
  • butylphen