Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on myelin development and diseases

Neurotoxicology. 2021 Mar:83:51-68. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2020.12.009. Epub 2020 Dec 29.


In the central and peripheral nervous systems, myelin is essential for efficient conduction of action potentials. During development, oligodendrocytes and Schwann cells differentiate and ensure axon myelination, and disruption of these processes can contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. In adults, demyelination can lead to important disabilities, and recovery capacities by remyelination often decrease with disease progression. Among environmental chemical pollutants, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are of major concern for human health and are notably suspected to participate in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we have combined the current knowledge on EDCs impacts on myelin including several persistent organic pollutants, bisphenol A, triclosan, heavy metals, pesticides, and nicotine. Besides, we presented several other endocrine modulators, including pharmaceuticals and the phytoestrogen genistein, some of which are candidates for treating demyelinating conditions but could also be deleterious as contaminants. The direct impacts of EDCs on myelinating cells were considered as well as their indirect consequences on myelin, particularly on immune mechanisms associated with demyelinating conditions. More studies are needed to describe the effects of these compounds and to further understand the underlying mechanisms in relation to the potential for endocrine disruption.

Keywords: Demyelination; Endocrine disrupting chemical; Hypomyelination; Myelin; Oligodendrocyte; Schwann cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Demyelinating Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / metabolism
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology
  • Endocrine Disruptors / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Myelin Sheath / drug effects*
  • Myelin Sheath / metabolism
  • Myelin Sheath / pathology
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology*
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / metabolism
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants