Effects of prenatal exposure to styrene trimers on genital organs and hormones in male rats

Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2007 Feb;232(2):301-8.


Styrene trimers migrate from polystyrene food container into foods. We evaluated the estrogenic activity of styrene trimers such as 2,4,6-triphenyl-1-hexene (ST-1), 1a-phenyl-4a-(1'-phenylethyl)tetralin (ST-2), 1a-phenyl-4e-(1'-phenylethyl)tetralin(ST-3), 1e-phenyl-4a-(1'-phenylethyl)tetralin (ST-4), and 1e-phenyl-4e-(1'-phenylethyl)tetralin (ST-5) using the reporter-gene assay with MVLN cells stably expressing the estrogen-stimulated reporter gene, and it was confirmed that ST-1, ST-3, and ST-4 had estrogen-like activity. On the other hand, ST-2 and ST-5 had anti-estrogen-like activity. We examined the estrogenic activity in vivo of ST-1, ST-3, and ST-4. The styrene trimers were administered to pregnant rats, and the effects on the offspring were examined. ST-1, ST-3, or ST-4 (0, 10, 100, 1000 microg/kg body wt/day) were subcutaneously injected into pregnant rats from gestational Day 11 through 17, and the male offspring were sacrificed on postnatal days (PND) 101-103. In the ST-4 treatment groups, the relative anogenital distance on PND 3 was significantly shortened. The relative testis weight was remarkably decreased in all styrene trimer treatment groups. Relative weights of the prostate and epididymides significantly decreased in the ST-4 treatment groups. The relative brain weight was markedly reduced in the ST-3 and ST-4 treatment groups. A significant decrease of the Sertoli cell count was observed in the ST-1 and ST-4 treatment groups. The serum follicle stimulating hormone level was remarkably reduced in all styrene trimer treatment groups. The luteinizing hormone level was significantly decreased and the testosterone level increased in the ST-1 and ST-4 groups. These results suggest that prenatal exposure to estrogenic styrene trimers at low levels obstructed genital organ development, and disrupted the endocrine systems of male rat offspring.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Male / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Polymers
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Styrene / chemistry
  • Styrene / pharmacology*


  • Polymers
  • Styrene