Author(s): Medlock KL, Branham WS, Sheehan DM
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Abstract Phytoestrogens found in clover, alfalfa, and soybeans have caused reproductive toxicity in several mammalian species. Other estrogens, such as diethylstilbestrol (DES), are developmental toxicants, reducing uterine estrogen receptor (ER) concentration, altering uterine growth, and eliciting reproductive tract abnormalities in the rat. The present study examines the effects of the phytoestrogens coumestrol and equol on the developing rat uterus. Various doses of these compounds were injected sc on postnatal days (PND) 1-5 or 1-10 to ascertain their effects on uterine weight and ER levels, and on PND 10-14 to determine their effects on uterine weight and gland genesis. Coumestrol (PND 1-5) was about 10(-3) as potent as DES in increasing uterine weight (wet or dry) while equol increased dry weight only, with a potency of 10(-5) that of DES. Although the 10 and 100 micrograms doses of coumestrol (PND 1-5 or 1-10) initially increased uterine wet weight, by PND 20 uterine weights either equaled or fell significantly below controls. The 100-micrograms dose of coumestrol (PND 1-5 or 1-10) reduced ER levels at all ages, while the 10-micrograms dose was not as effective. Equol (PND 1-5 or 1-10) did not affect ER levels. Premature uterine gland genesis occurred by PND 9 for the PND 1-5 100-micrograms coumestrol dose. When given on PND 10-14 (the critical period of gland genesis), 10 micrograms and 100 micrograms of coumestrol and 10 micrograms DES greatly increased uterine weight, while no effect was elicited by equol. Although coumestrol and equol inhibited uterine gland genesis in a dose-dependent manner, neither abolished gland genesis as did 10 micrograms of DES or tamoxifen. These data demonstrate that coumestrol elicits uterine biochemical and morphological toxicity much like DES. Equol decreased uterine gland number without increasing uterine wet weight or luminal epithelial hypertrophy, which is inconsistent with either an estrogenic or antiestrogenic action in the uterus.
This article was published in Proc Soc Exp Biol Med
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Toxicology