Developmental exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin may alter LH release patterns by abolishing sex differences in GABA/glutamate cell number and modifying the transcriptome of the male anteroventral periventricular nucleus

Neuroscience. 2016 Aug 4;329:239-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2016.04.051. Epub 2016 May 13.


Developmental exposure to arylhydrocarbon receptor (AhR) ligands abolishes sex differences in a wide range of neural structures and functions. A well-studied example is the anteroventral periventricular nucleus (AVPV), a structure that controls sex-specific luteinizing hormone (LH) release. In the male, testosterone (T) secreted by the developing testes defeminizes LH release mechanisms; conversely, perinatal AhR activation by 2,3,7,8,-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) blocks defeminization. To better understand developmental mechanisms altered by TCDD exposure, we first verified that neonatal TCDD exposure in male rats prevented the loss of AVPV GABA/glutamate neurons that are critical for female-typical LH surge release. We then used whole genome arrays and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (QPCR) to compare AVPV transcriptomes of males treated neonatally with TCDD or vehicle. Our bioinformatics analyses showed that TCDD enriched gene sets important for neuron development, synaptic transmission, ion homeostasis, and cholesterol biosynthesis. In addition, upstream regulatory analysis suggests that both estrogen receptors (ER) and androgen receptors (AR) regulate genes targeted by TCDD. Of the 23 mRNAs found to be changed by TCDD at least 2-fold (p<0.05), most participate in the functions identified in our bioinformatics analyses. Several, including matrix metallopeptidase 9 and SRY-box 11 (Sox11), are known targets of E2. CUG triplet repeat, RNA binding protein 2 (cugbp2) is particularly interesting because it is sex-specific, oppositely regulated by estradiol (E2) and TCDD. Moreover, it regulates the post-transcriptional processing of molecules previously linked to sexual differentiation of the brain. These findings provide new insights into how TCDD may interfere with defeminization of LH release patterns.

Keywords: AVPV; Cugbp2; LH; Mmp9; Sox11; defeminization.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cell Count
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / drug effects*
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / growth & development
  • Hypothalamus, Anterior / metabolism
  • Luteinizing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Transcriptome / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Luteinizing Hormone