Modulation of ovarian follicle maturation and effects on apoptotic cell death in Holtzman rats exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) in utero and lactationally

Reprod Toxicol. 1998 Jan-Feb;12(1):69-73. doi: 10.1016/s0890-6238(97)00101-9.


Recent reports have described the reproduction-modulating and endocrine-disrupting effects following exposure to toxic substances such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). Herein, we set out (1) to determine whether TCDD exposure exerts detrimental effects on follicle maturation in the Holtzman rat ovary and (2) to determine whether the effects of TCDD are mediated in part via apoptotic cell death. In certain species, dioxin exposure is correlated with reduced fecundity, reduced ovulatory rate, an increased incidence of endometriosis, and various reproductive cancers. Although some of the effects of TCDD are mediated via the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, direct effects on the ovary have also been observed. In the present study, an oral dose of 1 microgram TCDD/kg maternal body weight was administered on Day 15 of gestation. Female pups were sacrificed on Postnatal Day 21/22, and the ovaries were excised, fixed for histologic analysis, and analyzed in a double-blind paradigm. The analysis included a count and measurement and classification of preantral and antral follicles throughout the entire ovary. The contralateral ovary from each animal was analyzed for DNA fragmentation indicative of apoptotic cell death. The results indicate that TCDD treatment significantly reduced the number of antral follicles in the size classes 50,000 to 74,999 microns2 and > 100,000 microns2. We also observed a reduction in the number of preantral follicles less than 50,000 microns2. No difference was observed in the degree of apoptotic cell death in antral (50,000 to > 100,000 microns2) and preantral follicles (50,000 microns2 to > 75,000 microns2) between TCDD-treated and control-treated tissues. These data support the hypothesis that TCDD results in a diminution in the number of antral and preantral follicles of certain size classes in animals exposed during critical periods of development, but that apoptosis does not appear to be the underlying mechanism in these particular follicles. This does not preclude apoptosis occurring in pools of smaller precursor follicles.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Lactation*
  • Ovarian Follicle / drug effects*
  • Ovarian Follicle / growth & development*
  • Ovary / drug effects
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Ovary / pathology
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / pharmacokinetics
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins