Androgen action in the masculinization programming window and development of male reproductive organs

D. J. MacLeod, R. M. Sharpe, M. Welsh, M. Fiskin, H. M. Scott, G. R. Hutchinson, A. J. Drake, Sander van den Driesche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We have shown previously that deficient androgen action within a masculinization programming window (MPW; e15.5–e18.5 in rats) is important in the origin of male reproductive disorders and in programming male reproductive organ size, but that androgen action postnatally may be important to achieve this size. To further investigate importance of the MPW, we used two rat models, in which foetal androgen production or action was impaired during the MPW by exposing in utero to either di(n-butyl) phthalate (DBP) or to flutamide. Reduced anogenital distance (AGD) was used as a monitor of androgen production/action during the MPW. Offspring were evaluated in early puberty (Pnd25) to establish if reproductive organ size was altered. The testes, penis, ventral prostate (VP) and seminal vesicles (SV) were weighed and penis length measured. Both DBP and flutamide exposure in the MPW significantly reduced penis, VP and SV size along with AGD at Pnd25; AGD and organ size were highly correlated. In DBP-, but not flutamide-, exposed animals, testis weight was also reduced and correlated with AGD. Intratesticular testosterone was also measured in control and DBP-exposed males during (e17.5) or after (e21.5) the MPW and related to AGD at e21.5. To evaluate the importance of postnatal androgen action in reproductive organ growth, the effect of combinations of prenatal and postnatal maternal treatments on AGD and penis size at Pnd25 was evaluated. In prenatally DBP-exposed animals, further postnatal exposure to either DBP or flutamide significantly reduced AGD and penis size in comparison with prenatal DBP exposure alone. In comparison, rats exposed postnatally to testosterone propionate after prenatal vehicle-exposure showed considerable increase in these parameters vs. controls. In conclusion, we show that the size of all male reproductive organs is programmed by androgen exposure in the MPW, but that growth towards this size is dependent on androgen action postnatally.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Andrology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • anogenital distance
  • dibutyl phthalate
  • flutamide
  • penis
  • seminal vesicle
  • testis
  • ventral prostate


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