We hypothesized that in utero and lactational exposure of male rats to a mixture of more than 15 organochlorines, resembling that found in blubber from northern Quebec seals, alters reproductive development and function. Female rats were gavaged with either corn oil (controls) or the organochlorine mixture in increasing doses (low, medium, and high) for 5 wk before mating and through gestation. Developmental effects were monitored in the male offspring from Postnatal Day (PND) 2 until PND 90. The high-dose mixture reduced the number of pups per litter, percentage of live offspring, and pup weights (P < 0.05). Because only three rats from the high-dose treatment survived, data from this group beyond PND 2 were not included in the statistical analyses. As assessed by the time of preputial separation, puberty was delayed in the pups from treated dams (P < 0.05). Testes weights in the medium-dose group were greater than those in controls on PND 21 (P < 0.05). Ventral prostate weights were lower for the medium-dose group on PND 60 (P < 0.05). On PND 90, weights of the epididymis, ventral prostate, and seminal vesicle of the medium-dose rats were reduced compared to those of controls (P < 0.05). On PND 90, sperm motility parameters assessed by computer-assisted sperm analysis were altered in the low- and medium-dose groups (P < 0.05). Testicular and epididymal morphology was severely affected in rats exposed to the high dose of the mixture. Serum testosterone, LH, FSH, prolactin, and total thyroxine levels did not differ because of organochlorine treatment. Therefore, in utero and lactational exposure to an environmentally relevant organochlorine mixture adversely affects the reproductive system of male rats, perhaps via antiandrogenic effects during testis development, suggesting a possible reproductive health hazard for humans and other species.
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