Ovine fetal testis stage-specific sensitivity to environmental chemical mixtures

Richard Lea* (Corresponding Author), Beatrice Mandon-Pepin, Benoit Loup, Eloide Poumerol, Luc Jouneau, Biola F Egbowon, Adelle Bowden, Corinne Cotinot, Laura Purdie, Zulin Zhang, Paul Fowler , Kevin Sinclair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Exposure of the fetal testis to numerous individual environmental chemicals is frequently associated with dysregulated development, leading to impaired adult reproductive competence. However, 'real-life' exposure involves complex mixtures of environmental chemicals (ECs). Here we test the consequences, for the male fetus, of exposing pregnant ewes to EC mixtures derived from pastures treated with biosolids fertiliser (processed human sewage). Fetal testes from continuously exposed ewes were either unaffected at Day 80 or exhibited a reduced area of testis immunostained for CYP17A1 protein at Day 140. Fetal testes from Day 140 pregnant ewes exposed transiently for 80 day periods during early (0-80 days), mid (30-110 days) or late (60-140 days) pregnancy, had fewer Sertoli cells and reduced testicular area stained for CYP17A1. Male fetuses from ewes exposed during late pregnancy also exhibited reduced fetal body, adrenal and testis mass, anogenital distance and lowered testosterone: collectively indicative of an anti-androgenic effect. Exposure limited to early gestation induced more testis transcriptome changes than observed for continuously exposed Day 140 fetuses. These data suggest that a short period of EC exposure does not allow sufficient time for the testis to adapt. Consequently, testicular transcriptomic changes induced during the first 80 days of gestation may equate with phenotypic effects observed at Day 140. In contrast, relatively fewer changes in the testis transcriptome in fetuses exposed continuously to ECs throughout gestation is associated with less severe consequences. Unless corrected by or during puberty, these differential effects would predictably have adverse outcomes for adult testicular function and fertility.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Early online date1 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements: We thank George Corsar and Jim MacDonald for the management of experimental animals

Funding: This work was supported by the European Commission Framework 7 Programme (Contract No 212885)


Dive into the research topics of 'Ovine fetal testis stage-specific sensitivity to environmental chemical mixtures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this