Until now, studies dedicated to the actions of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on the reproductive axis have been concerned with their effects at the gonadal level leaving their actions on neuroendocrine circuits controlling reproduction virtually unexplored. In vertebrates, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is the key factor controlling the activity of the reproductive axis. The development and functioning of GnRH neurons are finely tuned by a series of factors, notably sex steroids, making these neurons potential targets of EDCs, notably in aquatic species. By means of immunohistochemistry, we examined the effects of low levels of ethinylestradiol (EE2 0.02 nM, 0.1 nM, 0.5 nM), a potent synthetic estrogen, on early development (at 5, 10, 20, 30 days post-fertilization) of the forebrain GnRH neurons in a model fish species, the zebrafish (Danio rerio). In parallel, the ER-regulated expression of cytochrome P450 aromatase B (AroB) protein, which is encoded by the cyp19a1b gene, was precisely mapped at the brain and pituitary levels in developing control and EE2-exposed zebrafish. We show that EE2 disrupts the ontogeny of GnRH system by inducing an increase in the number of GnRH-ir neurons and GnRH fibers based on their immunoreactivity as well as a decrease in the size of the GnRH-ir soma and a modification of the migration profile of GnRH-ir neurons. Furthermore, we report a spectacular dose and time-dependent induction of AroB expression in radial glial cells of the developing brain further illustrating the extreme sensitivity of AroB to xenoestrogen and the relevance of AroB as biomarker of xenoestrogen effects on the central nervous system. Collectively, these original and relevant observations highlight the sensitivity of GnRH and AroB to a synthetic estrogen during embryogenesis. These data reinforce the need to further study the mechanisms underlying EDC effects on key neuroendocrine circuits involved in reproduction and brain development of vertebrates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes