Interaction of environmental chemicals with the estrogen and progesterone receptors from the oviduct of the American alligator

Environ Health Perspect. 1996 Dec;104(12):1318-22. doi: 10.1289/ehp.961041318.


Reports of reproductive abnormalities in the American alligator from Lake Apopka, Florida, have been linked to a spill of DDT and other pesticides suspected of having hormonelike activity. To determine whether environmental chemicals had the potential to function as exogenous hormones in the American alligator, we examined the ability of chemicals to bind the estrogen receptor (aER) and progesterone receptor (aPR) in a protein extract prepared from the oviduct of the alligator. In competition binding assays with [3H]17 beta-estradiol, some DDT metabolites showed inhibition of [3H]17 beta-estradiol binding to aER. A combination of DDTs demonstrated an additive decrease in [3H]17 beta-estradiol binding to aER. Modern-use chemicals such as alachlor, trans-nonachlor, endosulfan, and atrazine also competed with [3H]17 beta-estradiol for binding to the aER. To test the effect of chemicals identified in alligator eggs from Lake Apopka on [3H]17 beta-estradiol binding, we mixed these chemicals at concentrations measured in eggs in the competition binding assay. 2,2-bis(4-chlorophenyl)-N-(methoxymethyl)acetamide (p,p'-DDD) and trans-nonachlor, both found in Lake Apopka, interacted with aER, whereas others such as chlordane and toxaphene did not. Surprisingly, combinations of these chemicals decreased [3H]17 beta-estradiol binding in a greater than additive manner. To assess the ability of chemicals to interact with aPR, we performed commpetition binding assays with the synthetic progestin [3H]R5020. Most of the chemicals tested did not reduce [3H]R5020 binding to aPR, whereas endosulfan, alachlor, and kepone inhibited binding. These results provide the first evidence that environmental chemicals bind the aER and aPR from the American alligator, supporting the hypothesis that the reported reproductive abnormalities may be related to the modulation of endocrine-related responses. The findings that combinations of chemicals demonstrated a greater than additive interaction with the aER and some chemicals bind to the aPR in the competition binding assay are novel. This suggests that interactions of these chemicals with the endocrine system are complex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alligators and Crocodiles / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Binding, Competitive
  • Biological Assay
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Oviducts / chemistry
  • Oviducts / drug effects*
  • Oviducts / metabolism
  • Pesticides / adverse effects
  • Pesticides / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / drug effects
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Progesterone / drug effects
  • Receptors, Progesterone / metabolism*


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Estrogens
  • Pesticides
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, Progesterone