Effect of prenatal exposure to DES on Müllerian duct development

Prenatal DES exposure may lead to persistence of Müllerian duct remnants in male

1998 Study Abstract

The clinical use of diethylstilbestrol (DES) by pregnant women has resulted in an increased incidence of genital carcinoma in the daughters born from these pregnancies. Also, in the so-called DES-sons abnormalities were found, mainly, the presence of Müllerian duct remnants, which indicates that fetal exposure to DES may have an effect on male sex differentiation.

Effect of prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol on Müllerian duct development in fetal male mice, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, Endocrinology, NCBI PubMed PMID: 9751506, 1998 Oct.

Image credit nature genetics.

Fetal regression of the Müllerian ducts is under testicular control through anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH). In male mice, treated in utero with DES, the Müllerian ducts do not regress completely, although DES-exposed testes do produce AMH. We hypothesized that incomplete regression in DES-exposed males is caused by a diminished sensitivity of the Müllerian ducts to AMH. Therefore, the effect of DES on temporal aspects of Müllerian duct regression and AMH type II receptor (AMHRII) messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in male mouse fetuses was studied.

It was observed that Müllerian duct regression was incomplete at E19 (19 days post coitum), upon DES administration during pregnancy from E9 through E16. Furthermore, analysis of earlier time points of fetal development revealed that the DES treatment had clearly delayed the onset of Müllerian duct formation by approximately 2 days; in untreated fetuses, Müllerian duct formation was complete by E13, whereas fully formed Müllerian ducts were not observed in DES-treated male fetuses until E15. Using in situ hybridization, no change in the localization of AMH and AMHRII mRNA expression was observed in DES-exposed male fetuses. The mRNA expression was quantified using ribonuclease protection assay, showing an increased expression level of AMH and AMHRII mRNAs at E 13 in DES-exposed male fetuses. Furthermore, the mRNA expression levels of Hoxa 11 and steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1) were determined as a marker for fetal development. Prenatal DES exposure had no effect on Hoxa 11 mRNA expression, indicating that DES did not exert an overall effect on the rate of fetal development. In DES-exposed male fetuses, SF-1 showed a similar increase in mRNA expression as AMH, in agreement with the observations that the AMH gene promoter requires an intact SF-1 DNA binding site for time- and cell-specific expression, although an effect of DES on SF-1 expression in other tissues, such as the adrenal and pituitary gland, cannot be excluded. However, the increased expression levels of AMH and AMHRII mRNAs do not directly explain the decreased sensitivity of the Müllerian ducts to AMH.

Therefore, it is concluded that prenatal DES exposure of male mice delays the onset of Müllerian duct development, which may result in an asynchrony in the timing of Müllerian duct formation, with respect to the critical period of Müllerian duct regression, leading to persistence of Müllerian duct remnants in male mice.

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