Restoration of dioxin-induced damage to fetal steroidogenesis and gonadotropin formation by maternal co-treatment with α-lipoic acid

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40322. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040322. Epub 2012 Jul 20.


2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), an endocrine disruptor, causes reproductive and developmental toxic effects in pups following maternal exposure in a number of animal models. Our previous studies have demonstrated that TCDD imprints sexual immaturity by suppressing the expression of fetal pituitary gonadotropins, the regulators of gonadal steroidogenesis. In the present study, we discovered that all TCDD-produced damage to fetal production of pituitary gonadotropins as well as testicular steroidogenesis can be repaired by co-treating pregnant rats with α-lipoic acid (LA), an obligate co-factor for intermediary metabolism including energy production. While LA also acts as an anti-oxidant, other anti-oxidants; i.e., ascorbic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole and edaravone, failed to exhibit any beneficial effects. Neither wasting syndrome nor CYP1A1 induction in the fetal brain caused through the activation of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) could be attenuated by LA. These lines of evidence suggest that oxidative stress makes only a minor contribution to the TCDD-induced disorder of fetal steroidogenesis, and LA has a restorative effect by targeting on mechanism(s) other than AhR activation. Following a metabolomic analysis, it was found that TCDD caused a more marked change in the hypothalamus, a pituitary regulator, than in the pituitary itself. Although the components of the tricarboxylic acid cycle and the ATP content of the fetal hypothalamus were significantly changed by TCDD, all these changes were again rectified by exogenous LA. We also provided evidence that the fetal hypothalamic content of endogenous LA is significantly reduced following maternal exposure to TCDD. Thus, the data obtained strongly suggest that TCDD reduces the expression of fetal pituitary gonadotropins to imprint sexual immaturity or disturb development by suppressing the level of LA, one of the key players serving energy production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects
  • Fetal Development / genetics
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Gonadotropins / genetics
  • Gonadotropins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure
  • Metabolome
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Teratogens / toxicity*
  • Thioctic Acid / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Gonadotropins
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Receptors, Aryl Hydrocarbon
  • Teratogens
  • Thioctic Acid