Involvement of insulin-like factor 3 (Insl3) in DES-induced cryptorchidism

DES may interfere with gubernaculum development by altering Insl3 mRNA expression, leading to cryptorchidism

2000 Study Abstract

Recently, it has been shown that targeted inactivation of the Insl3 gene in male mice results in cryptorchidism. The Insl3 gene encodes insulin-like factor 3 (Insl3), which is expressed in fetal Leydig cells. The testicular factor Insl3 appears to play an important role in the transabdominal phase of testis descent, which involves development of the gubernaculum.

Other studies have demonstrated that in utero exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen, can lead to cryptorchidism both in humans and in animal models.

The present study was undertaken to investigate whether prenatal DES-exposure might interfere with testicular Insl3 mRNA expression. Furthermore, the effect of DES on steroidogenic factor 1 (SF-1) mRNA expression level was determined, since it has been shown that SF-1 plays an essential role in transcriptional activation of the Insl3 gene promoter.

Timed pregnant mice were treated with DES (100 microg/kg body weight) or vehicle alone on days E9 (gestational day 9) through E17. Control and DES-exposed mouse fetuses were collected at E16, E17 and E18, when transabdominal testis descent is taking place. Lack of gubernaculum development in DES-exposed animals was confirmed by histological analyses at E17. Expression of Insl3 and SF-1 mRNAs was studied in testes of control and DES-exposed fetuses at E16 and E18 by RNase protection assay. Prenatal DES-exposure resulted in a three-fold decrease in Insl3 mRNA expression level (P<0.005), at both E16 and E18. In contrast, DES treatment had no effect on the expression of SF-1 mRNA.

These results support our hypothesis that DES may interfere with gubernaculum development by altering Insl3 mRNA expression, providing a possible mechanism by which DES may cause cryptorchidism.


  • Involvement of insulin-like factor 3 (Insl3) in diethylstilbestrol-induced cryptorchidism, Endocrinology, NCBI PubMed, PMID: 10650968, 2000 Feb.
  • Featured image credit Jaron Nix.

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