The pharmaceutical 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2) is considered as an endocrine-disrupting chemical that interferes with male reproduction and hormonal activation. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanism underlying EE2-regulatory testosterone release in vitro and in vivo. The results show that EE2 treatment decreased testosterone release from rat Leydig cells. Treatment of rats with EE2 reduced plasma testosterone levels and decreased the sensitivity of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). EE2 reduced luteinizing hormone receptor (LHR) expression associated with decreased cAMP generation by downregulation of adenylyl cyclase activity and decreased intracellular calcium-mediated pathways. The expression levels of StAR and P450scc were decreased in Leydig cells by treatment of rats with EE2 for 7 days. The sperm motility in the vas deferens and epididymis was reduced, but the histopathological features of the testis and the total sperm number of the vas deferens were not affected. Moreover, the serum dihydrotestosterone (DHT) level was decreased by treatment with EE2. The prostate gland and seminal vesicle atrophied significantly, and their expression level of 5α-reductase type II was reduced after EE2 exposure. Taken together, these results demonstrate an underlying mechanism of EE2 to downregulate testosterone production in Leydig cells, explaining the damaging effects of EE2 on male reproduction.
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