Dioxin male rat reproductive toxicity mode of action and relative potency of 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran characterized by fetal pituitary and testis transcriptome profiling

Reprod Toxicol. 2020 Apr:93:146-162. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2020.02.008. Epub 2020 Feb 25.


Fetal rat exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) reduces epididymal sperm number involving altered pituitary-testicular hormonal signaling as the proposed mode-of-action (MOA). To evaluate this MOA and compare TCDD to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran (TCDF), an in utero rat exposure and study was conducted. Endpoints included congener tissue levels and transcriptomes of maternal liver and fetal liver, testis, and pituitary. Decreased gonadotropin subunit mRNAs levels (Lhb and Fshb) and enriched signaling pathways including GNRH Signaling and Calcium Signaling were observed in fetal pituitary after TCDD (but not TCDF) exposure. TCDD (but not TCDF) decreased fetal testis cholesterologenic and steroidogenic pathway genes. TCDD tissue concentrations in dam liver, dam adipose, and whole fetus were approximately 3- to 6-fold higher than TCDF. These results support a MOA for dioxin-induced rat male reproductive toxicity involving key events in both the fetal pituitary (e.g., reduced gonadotropin production) and fetal testis (e.g., reduced Leydig cell cholesterologenesis and steroidogenesis).

Keywords: Adverse outcome pathway; Dioxin; Hormone; Pituitary; Testis; Toxicogenomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzofurans / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetus / drug effects*
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects*
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pituitary Gland / drug effects*
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / metabolism


  • Benzofurans
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzofuran