Journal Article

Effects of Dibutyl Phthalate in Male Rabbits following <i>in Utero</i>, Adolescent, or Postpubertal Exposure

Ty T. Higuchi, Jennifer S. Palmer, L. Earl Gray and D. N. Rao Veeramachaneni

in Toxicological Sciences

Volume 72, issue 2, pages 301-313
Published in print April 2003 | ISSN: 1096-6080
Published online April 2003 | e-ISSN: 1096-0929 | DOI:
Effects of Dibutyl Phthalate in Male Rabbits following in Utero, Adolescent, or Postpubertal Exposure

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We evaluated sequelae in male rabbits following exposure to dibutyl phthalate (DBP) at a dose level known to adversely affect testicular function in rodents without causing systemic toxicity. Because rabbits have a relatively long phase of reproductive development simulating better than rodents the reproductive development of humans, and because the use of rabbits facilitates multiple evaluations of mating ability and seminal quality, we used this animal model. Rabbits were exposed to 0 or 400 mg DBP/kg/day in utero (gestation days [GD] 15–29) or during adolescence (postnatal weeks [PNW] 4–12), and male offspring were examined at 6, 12, and 25 weeks of age. Another group was exposed after puberty (for 12 weeks) and examined at the conclusion of exposure. The most pronounced reproductive effects were in male rabbits exposed in utero. Male offspring in this group exhibited reduction in numbers of ejaculated sperm (down 43%; p < 0.01), in weights of testes (at 12 weeks, down 23%; p < 0.05) and in accessory sex glands (at 12 and 25 weeks, down 36%; p < 0.01 and down 27%; p < 0.05, respectively). Serum testosterone levels were down (at 6 weeks, 32%; p < 0.05); a slight increase in histological alterations of the testis (p < 0.05) and a doubling in the percentage (from 16 to 30%, p < 0.01) of abnormal sperm; and 1/17 males manifesting hypospadias, hypoplastic prostate, and cryptorchid testes with carcinoma in situ-like cells. In the DBP group exposed during adolescence, basal serum testosterone levels were reduced at 6 weeks (p < 0.01) while at 12 weeks, testosterone production in vivo failed to respond normally to a GnRH challenge (p < 0.01). In addition, weight of accessory sex glands was reduced at 12 weeks but not at 25 weeks after a recovery period; there was a slight increase in the percentage of abnormal sperm in the ejaculate; and 1/11 males was unilaterally cryptorchid. In both of these DBP-treated groups, daily sperm production, epididymal sperm counts, mating ability, and weights of body and nonreproductive organs were unaffected. Thus, DBP induces lesions in the reproductive system of the rabbit, with the intrauterine period being the most sensitive stage of life.

Keywords: DBP; reproductive toxicity; abnormal male sexual differentiation; ejaculated sperm counts; atypical germ cells; semen quality; testosterone

Journal Article.  8558 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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