4-tert-octyphenol (OP) is a surfactant additive widely used in the manufacture of a variety of detergents and plastic products. OP has been reported to mimic the actions of estrogen in many cellular systems. The present studies evaluated the direct effects of OP on human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)-stimulated testosterone biosynthesis by cultured precursor and immature Leydig cells from 23-day old (prepubertal) rats. Exposure to increasing OP concentrations (1 to 2000 nM) progressively decreased hCG-stimulated testosterone formation in both precursor and immature Leydig cells at higher OP concentrations (100 or 500 to 2000 nM). Testosterone levels were reduced approximately 30 to 70% below control at the highest concentration in both cell types. Similar reductions in testosterone associated with OP exposure were observed in cells stimulated with 1 mM 8-Br-cAMP, suggesting that the main actions of OP occur after the generation of cAMP. Increasing concentrations of 17beta-estradiol (1 to 1000 nM) had no effect on hCG-stimulated testosterone formation in both precursor and immature Leydig cells and the inclusion of 100 nM ICI 182,780, a pure estrogen antagonist, in precursor and immature Leydig cells exposed to OP and hCG, did not alter the inhibition by higher OP concentrations of testosterone formation in both cell types. These results suggest that OP is a hormonally active agent, but that some of its actions are distinct from those of 17beta-estradiol and are not mediated through the estrogen receptor alpha or beta pathway. To further localize the potential site(s) of action of OP, cultured precursor and immature Leydig cells were exposed to increasing concentrations of OP and hCG for 24 h. Next, fresh media containing 1 microM 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol, 1 microM pregnenolone, 1 microM progesterone, or 1 microM androstenedione was added, and the conversion of each substrate to testosterone was determined after incubation for 4 h. The conversion of androstenedione to testosterone was unaffected by exposure to OP, suggesting that the 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase step is not inhibited. However, the conversion of 22(R)-hydroxycholesterol, pregnenolone and progesterone all were inhibited by prior exposure to OP and hCG. This finding suggests that the 17alpha-hydroxylase/c17-20-lyase step, which converts progesterone to androstenedione, is inhibited by OP, and that the cholesterol side-chain cleavage and 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase -isomerase steps, which convert cholesterol to pregnenolone and pregnenolone to progesterone, respectively, are other potential sites of OP action. Because concomitant exposure to the antioxidants alpha-tocopherol or ascorbate did not alter the inhibition of testosterone formation by higher OP concentrations, it does not appear that OP is acting as a pseudosubstrate for the generation of free radicals, which can damage P450 enzymes.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Effects Laboratory Division, Pathology and Physiology Research Branch, M/S 2015, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888, USA