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Epigenetic effects of prenatal estradiol-17β exposure on the reproductive system of pigs

Kradolfer, David, Flöter, Veronika L., Bick, Jochen T., Fürst, Rainer W., Rode, Kristina, Brehm, Ralph, Henning, Heiko, Waberski, Dagmar, Bauersachs, Stefan, Ulbrich, Susanne E.
Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 2016 v.430 pp. 125-137
DNA methylation, adults, adverse effects, boars, body weight, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, epigenetics, gene expression, genes, gilts, models, neoplasms, phenotype, piglets, pregnancy, progeny, risk, rodents, sequence analysis, spermatozoa, testes, transcription (genetics)
There is growing evidence that early life exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals might increase the risk for certain adult onset diseases, in particular reproductive health problems and hormone dependent cancers. Studies in rodents suggest that perinatal exposure to even low doses of estrogenic substances can cause adverse effects, including epigenetic reprogramming of the prostate and increased formation of precancerous lesions. We analyzed the effects of an in utero exposure to the strongest natural estrogen, estradiol-17β, in a pig model. Two different low and one high dose of estradiol-17β (0.05, 10 and 1000 μg/kg body weight/day) were orally applied to gilts during pregnancy and potential effects on the reproductive system of the offspring were analyzed. No significant effects on sperm vitality parameters and testes size were observed in adult boars. However, prenatal exposure to the high dose decreased absolute, but not relative weight of the testes in prepubertal piglets. RNA sequencing revealed significantly regulated genes of the prepubertal prostate, while testes and uteri were not affected. Notably, we found an increased prostate expression of CCDC80 and a decreased ADH1C expression in the low dose treatment groups. BGN and SPARC, two genes associated with prostate tumor progression, were as well more abundant in exposed animals. Strikingly, the gene body DNA methylation level of BGN was accordingly increased in the high dose group. Thus, while only prenatal exposure to a high dose of estrogen altered testes development and local DNA methylation of the prostate, even low dose exposure had significant effects on gene expression in the prostate of prepubertal piglet offspring. The relevance of these distinct, but subtle transcriptional changes following low dose treatment lacking a clear phenotype calls for further long-term investigations. An epigenetic reprogramming of the pig prostate due to prenatal estrogen cannot be neglected.