Early postnatal exposure to di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate causes sex-specific disruption of gonadal development in pigs

Yuna Lee, Saniya Rattan, Radwa Barakat, Zane Inman, Kathy M. De La Torre, Daryl D. Meling, Marcia H. Monaco, Joseph M. Irudayaraj, Isaac K. Cann, Chemyong J. Ko, Sharon M. Donovan, Jodi A. Flaws, Genoa R. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a chemical commonly used as a plasticizer to render polyvinyl chloride products more durable and flexible. Although exposure to DEHP has raised many health concerns due to the identification of DEHP as an endocrine disruptor, it is still used in consumer products, including polyvinyl chloride plastics, medical tubing, car interiors, and children's toys. To investigate the impact of early life exposure to DEHP on the ovary and testes, newborn piglets were orally dosed with DEHP (20 or 200 mg/kg/day) or vehicle control (tocopherol-stripped corn oil) for 21 days. Following treatment, ovaries, testes, and sera were harvested for histological assessment and measurement of steroid hormone levels. In male piglets, progesterone and pregnenolone levels were significantly lower in both treatment groups compared to control, whereas in female piglets, progesterone was significantly higher in the 20 mg group compared to control, indicating sex-specific effects in a non-monotonic manner. Follicle numbers and gene expression of steroidogenic enzymes and apoptotic factors were not altered in treated ovaries compared to controls. In DEHP-treated testes, germ cell migration was impaired and germ cell death was significantly increased compared to controls. Overall, the results of this study suggest that neonatal exposure to DEHP in pigs leads to sex-specific disruption of the reproductive system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-61
Number of pages9
JournalReproductive Toxicology
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology


  • Endocrine disruption
  • Phthalates
  • Pigs
  • Steroidogenesis


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