The present studies evaluated the suitability of using cultured dispersed testicular cells from neonatal rats as a source for fetal Leydig cells and the use of these cells to examine direct toxic effects of environmental/occupational chemicals on androgen biosynthesis. For the current studies, the direct actions of octylphenol (OP), a surfactant additive widely used in the manufacture of various detergents, on testosterone biosynthesis by cultured rat neonatal Leydig cells were examined. Octylphenol is considered a xenoestrogen and has been reported to mimic the actions of estrogen in many cellular systems. Following exposure of cultured cells for 24 h to varying concentrations of OP (1 to 2000 nM) together with 10 mIU/mL human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the lower concentrations of OP (1 and 10 nM) consistently enhanced testosterone levels (approximately 10 to 70% above control), whereas higher OP concentrations (100 to 2000 nM) progressively decreased testosterone from peak levels to approximately 40 to 80% below control at the highest OP concentration. Interestingly, increasing concentrations of 17ß-estradiol (1 to 1000 nM) were without effect on testosterone biosynthesis under the same conditions, and the biphasic pattern of testosterone biosynthesis elicited by increasing OP concentrations was unaffected by concomitant treatment with 10 or 100 nM ICI 182,780, which is considered a pure estrogen antagonist. Therefore, the actions of OP on testosterone biosynthesis by cultured neonatal Leydig cells do not appear to be mediated through the classic estrogen receptor a or ß pathway. Although the increase in testosterone levels after exposure to lower OP concentrations and to 0.1 and 1.0 mM 8-Br-cAMP was attenuated, suggesting that lower OP concentrations may alter cellular cAMP levels, because hCG-stimulated cAMP levels were unaffected by any of the OP concentrations evaluated, it appears that its main site(s) of action occurs after the generation of cAMP. In addition, because pretreatment of cells with increasing OP concentrations and hCG had no effect on the conversion of steroid precursors (22(R)-hydroxycholesterol, pregnenolone, progesterone, or androstenedione) to testosterone, it seems that the main actions of OP under the present conditions occur before the mitochondrial cholesterol side-chain cleavage step. Furthermore, because concomitant treatment of cells with various antioxidants (a-tocopherol, butylated hydroxyanisole, or ascorbic acid) did not alter the biphasic pattern of testosterone response to increasing concentrations of OP and hCG, it seems that OP is not acting as an anti- or pro-oxidant in producing these effects. It will be important to determine whether this dose-sensitive response to OP is observed in vivo, and whether the maturational status of Leydig cells influences their pattern of response to OP and similar chemicals.
E.P. Murono, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Health Effects Laboratory Division, Pathology and Physiology Research Branch, M/S 2015, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, West Virginia 26505-2888