Female reproductive function depends upon the exquisite control of ovarian steroidogenesis that enables folliculogenesis, ovulation, and pregnancy. These mechanisms are set during fetal and/or neonatal development and undergo phases of differentiation throughout pre- and post-pubescent life. Ovarian development and function are collectively regulated by a host of endogenous growth factors, cytokines, gonadotropins, and steroid hormones as well as exogenous factors such as nutrients and environmental agents. Endocrine disruptors represent one class of environmental agent that can impact female fertility by altering ovarian development and function, purportedly through estrogenic, anti-estrogenic, and/or anti-androgenic effects. This review discusses ovarian development and function and how these processes are affected by some of the known estrogenic and anti-androgenic endocrine disruptors. Recent information suggests not only that exposure to endocrine disruptors during the developmental period causes reproductive abnormalities in adult life but also that these abnormalities are transgenerational. This latter finding adds another level of importance for identifying and understanding the mechanisms of action of these agents.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Embryonic gonadal development
- Environmental endocrine disruptors
- Female fertility
- Paracrine factors