Understanding the effects of atrazine on steroidogenesis in rat granulosa and H295R adrenal cortical carcinoma cells

Reprod Toxicol. 2011 Feb;31(2):184-93. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2010.11.005. Epub 2010 Nov 30.


Atrazine (2-chloro-4-ethylamino-6-isopropylamino-s-triazine) was introduced in the 1950s as a broad spectrum herbicide, and remains one of the most widely used herbicides in the United States. Several studies have suggested that atrazine modifies steroidogenesis and may disrupt reproductive function and development in a variety of species. A primary concern has been whether atrazine increases the synthesis of estrogens, perhaps by enhancing aromatase gene expression and activity. In this study, the effect of atrazine was compared in cultures using primary granulosa cells and H295R adrenal cortical carcinoma cells. Atrazine (10 μM), but not its metabolite, 2-chloro-4,6-diamino-1,2,5-triazine (DACT), significantly increased estradiol production and aromatase activity in granulosa cell cultures only when measured for 1-h following 24h of exposure. In H295R cells, atrazine (10 μM) increased estradiol and estrone production. Importantly, atrazine (10 μM) increased progesterone production from both cell types suggesting a broader effect of atrazine on steroidogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Atrazine / pharmacology
  • Atrazine / toxicity*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Estradiol / biosynthesis
  • Estrone / biosynthesis
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / biosynthesis*
  • Granulosa Cells / drug effects*
  • Granulosa Cells / metabolism
  • Herbicides / pharmacology
  • Herbicides / toxicity*
  • Progesterone / biosynthesis
  • Rats
  • Steroids / biosynthesis*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Herbicides
  • Steroids
  • Estrone
  • Progesterone
  • Estradiol
  • Aromatase
  • Atrazine