Effects of polybrominated diphenyl ethers on steroidogenesis in rat Leydig cells

Kai Lee Wang, Shih Min Hsia, I. Fang Mao, Mei Lien Chen, Shyi Wu Wang, Paulus S. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are brominated flame retardants that have been defined as major environmental pollutants. While previous studies have found that PBDEs may enhance the levels of sex-steroid hormones, their effects on testosterone secretion from rat Leydig cells are unclear. This study investigated the effects and mechanisms of PBDE-710, a mixture of tetra- and penta-PBDEs, on testosterone biosynthesis in rat Leydig cells. Methods: Leydig cells from adult male rats were challenged with different concentrations of PBDE-710 (0.5-15 ng/ml) to evaluate the effects on testosterone steroidogenesis. Concentrations of testosterone and of cAMP and pregnenolone in medium were measured by radioimmunoassay (RIA) and by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, respectively. Nuclear translocation of protein kinase A α (PKAα) was determined by immunofluorence assay and western blot assay, and the mRNA expression of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR) was analyzed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Results: In this in vitro study, PBDE-710 (5 or 15 ng/ml) increased basal testosterone secretion and cAMP production by 3- and 2-fold, respectively. The stimulatory effect was abolished by adenylyl cyclase inhibitor. Enzyme activity of CYP11A1, as determined by the pregnenolone concentration, was stimulated by PBDE-710 treatment. Furthermore, nuclear translocation of PKAα was increased by 20 and StAR gene expression was elevated by 4-fold after PBDE-710 treatment. Conclusions: These Results suggest that low concentrations of PBDE-710 could stimulate testosterone secretion by acting directly on Leydig cells to activate the cAMP pathway and increase expression of StAR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2209-2217
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Leydig cells
  • cyclic AMP
  • polybrominated diphenyl ethers
  • steroidogenesis
  • testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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