Research ArticleOpen Access

Screening for estrogen and androgen receptor activities in 200 pesticides by in vitro reporter gene assays using Chinese hamster ovary cells.

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    We tested 200 pesticides, including some of their isomers and metabolites, for agonism and antagonism to two human estrogen receptor (hER) subtypes, hERalpha and hERbeta, and a human androgen receptor (hAR) by highly sensitive transactivation assays using Chinese hamster ovary cells. The test compounds were classified into nine groups: organochlorines, diphenyl ethers, organophosphorus pesticides, pyrethroids, carbamates, acid amides, triazines, ureas, and others. These pesticides were tested at concentrations < 10-5 M. Of the 200 pesticides tested, 47 and 33 showed hER- and hERbeta-mediated estrogenic activities, respectively. Among them, 29 pesticides had both hERalpha and hERbeta agonistic activities, and the effects of the organochlorine insecticides beta-benzene hexachloride (BHC) and delta-BHC and the carbamate insecticide methiocarb were predominantly hERbeta rather than hERalpha agonistic. Weak antagonistic effects toward hERalpha and hERbeta were shown in five and two pesticides, respectively. On the other hand, none of tested pesticides showed hAR-mediated androgenic activity, but 66 of 200 pesticides exhibited inhibitory activity against the transcriptional activity induced by 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone. In particular, the antiandrogenic activities of two diphenyl ether herbicides, chlornitrofen and chlomethoxyfen, were higher than those of vinclozolin and p,p -dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethylene, known AR antagonists. The results of our ER and AR assays show that 34 pesticides possessed both estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities, indicating pleiotropic effects on hER and hAR. We also discussed chemical structures related to these activities. Taken together, our findings suggest that a variety of pesticides have estrogenic and/or antiandrogenic potential via ER and/or AR, and that numerous other manmade chemicals may also possess such estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities.