Androgens are hormones produced by the gonads and other endocrine organs of vertebrates. Testosterone, along with its metabolite dihydrotestosterone, is critical for the differentiation of the fetal male reproductive tract from an indifferent state, for the development of male traits during puberty, and for the maintenance of reproductive function in mature animals. The androgen signaling pathway is highly conserved in the reproductive system of all vertebrates from fish to humans; therefore, environmental chemicals have the potential to induce adverse effects in any vertebrate species. There are synthetic androgens present in the environment, and several pesticides and toxic substances display antiandrogenic activity. For example, exposure to mixtures of antiandrogens during sexual differentiation results in cumulative adverse effects in male rat offspring. Continued characterization of the role of androgens in reproductive and other systems is warranted to enable better understanding of the potential adverse effects of chemical disruption of androgen signaling.
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Vol. 58 • No. 11