The phthalate ester di(n-butyl) phthalate (DBP) causes feminization of male rats upon in utero exposure by repressing expression of genes required for testicular steroidogenesis. Previous work in our laboratory has shown that repression of gene expression and steroidogenesis in the fetal testis is apparent within a few hours of DBP exposure. The purpose of this study was to determine the precise timing of DBP-associated gene expression changes in the fetal testis using transcriptional profiling and to determine whether DBP exerts similar effects on steroidogenesis in the fetal adrenal. A DBP time-course experiment showed that testicular steroidogenesis was decreased within 1 h of DBP exposure and that this decrease preceded the repressed transcription of Star (steroidogenic acute regulatory protein); Scarb1 (scavenger receptor class B, member 1; also know as Sr-b1); Cyp11a1 (cytochrome P450, family 11, subfamily a, polypeptide 1; also known as P450SCC); and Cyp17a1 (cytochrome P450 family 17, subfamily a, polypeptide 1; also known as Cyp17). Gene expression profiling demonstrated rapid (within 1 to 3 h) and transient induction of immediate early genes in the fetal testis after administration of DBP to the pregnant dam. There was a statistically insignificant decrease in corticosterone production by the fetal adrenal after in utero exposure to DBP from Gestation Day 12 to Gestation Day 19. The extent of steroidogenesis diminution was much less in the adrenal than in the testis (approximately 45% decrease in the adrenal versus 87% decrease in the testis) and expression of genes required for steroidogenesis in the adrenal was unaffected by DBP. Together, these studies demonstrate that DBP initiates a rapid and dynamic change in gene expression in the fetal testis that likely plays a role in the reduction in steroidogenesis that is unique to the fetal testis relative to the steroidogenically active fetal adrenal.
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