A dose-response study following in utero and lactational exposure to di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP): effects on androgenic status, developmental landmarks and testicular histology in male offspring rats

Toxicology. 2006 Aug 1;225(1):64-74. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2006.05.007. Epub 2006 May 19.


An extensive dose-response study following in utero and lactational exposure to di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) was conducted. A wide range of low and high DEHP doses were tested. Reproductive effects were evaluated on male offspring rats. Female Wistar rats were treated daily with DEHP and peanut oil by gavage from gestation day 6 to lactation day 21 at doses of 0.015, 0.045, 0.135, 0.405 and 1.215 mg DEHP/kg body weight (bw)/day (low doses) and at 5, 15, 45, 135 and 405 mg DEHP/kg bw/day (high doses). Nipple retention and reduced anogenital distance, both sensitive markers of anti-androgenic effects during development, were only seen in males exposed to the highest dose (405 mg/kg/day). Delayed preputial separation was observed in animals exposed to 15 mg DEHP/kg/day and higher doses. Histopathological examination of the testis on postnatal days (PNDs) 1 and 22 revealed changes at 135 and 405 mg DEHP/kg/day. The most prominent finding on PND 1 was the presence of bi- and multinucleated gonocytes. On PND 22 signs of reduced germ cell differentiation in seminiferous tubules of exposed animals were observed. Testis weight on PND 22 was significantly increased at 5, 15, 45 and 135 mg/kg/day, an effect that qualitatively differs from exposure to higher doses. The current results show that DEHP acts as an anti-androgen at a high dose exposure (405 mg/kg/day). However, these results also indicate that other subtle developmental effects occur at lower DEHP doses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate / toxicity*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Male
  • No-Observed-Adverse-Effect Level
  • Plasticizers / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sexual Maturation / drug effects
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / pathology


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Plasticizers
  • Diethylhexyl Phthalate