Effects of endocrine disruptors on developmental and reproductive functions

Curr Drug Targets Immune Endocr Metabol Disord. 2005 Mar;5(1):1-10. doi: 10.2174/1568008053174750.


Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are exogenous environmental molecules that may affect the synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding, action, and catabolism of natural hormones in the body. EDs may thus interact with the endocrine system of animals and humans and can exert this effect even when present in minute amounts. EDs have adverse impacts on a number of developmental functions in wildlife and humans. Critical periods of urogenital tract and nervous system development in-utero and during early post-natal life are especially sensitive to hormonal disruption. Furthermore a wide range of hormone-dependent organs (pituitary gland, hypothalamus, reproductive tract) are targets of EDs disrupting effects in adult subjects, possibly resulting in cell transformation and cancer. At present about 60 chemicals have been identified and characterized as EDs and belong to three main groups: (a) synthetic compounds utilized in industry, agriculture and consumer products; (b) synthetic molecules used as pharmaceutical drugs and (c) natural chemicals found in human and animal food (phytoestrogens). In the present review we will give special attention to the family of Polychlorinated biphenyls (also indicated as PCBs) because of their persistence in the environment, ability to concentrate up the food chain, continued detection in environmental matrices, and ability to be stored in the adipose tissue of animals as well as humans. The detrimental effects of these compounds, and of EDs more in general, on health and reproduction will be discussed, presenting experimental data aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in their action.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Endocrine System / metabolism
  • Endocrine System / physiology*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Hormone Antagonists / chemistry
  • Hormone Antagonists / metabolism*
  • Hormone Antagonists / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / physiology*


  • Hormone Antagonists