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An Introduction to the Endocrine System through a Study of Endocrine Disruptors. Nervous and Endocrine Systems. Act together to coordinate functions of all body systems Nervous system Nerve impulses/ Neurotransmitters Faster responses, briefer effects, acts on specific target

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nervous and endocrine systems
Nervous and Endocrine Systems
  • Act together to coordinate functions of all body systems
  • Nervous system
    • Nerve impulses/ Neurotransmitters
    • Faster responses, briefer effects, acts on specific target
  • Endocrine system
    • Hormone – mediator molecule released in one part of the body but regulates activity of cells in other parts
    • Slower responses, effects last longer, broader influence
endocrine glands
Endocrine Glands
  • 2 kinds of glands
    • Exocrine – ducted
    • Endocrine – ductless
      • Secrete products into interstitial fluid, diffuse into blood
  • Endocrine glands include
    • Pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal and pineal glands
    • Hypothalamus, thymus, pancreas, ovaries, testes, kidneys, stomach, liver, small intestine, skin, heart, adipose tissue, and placenta not exclusively endocrine glands
hormone activity
Hormone Activity
  • Hormones affect only specific target tissues with specific receptors
  • Receptors constantly synthesized and broken down
chemical classes of hormones
Chemical classes of hormones
  • Lipid-soluble – use transport proteins
    • Steroid
    • Thyroid
    • Nitric oxide (NO)
  • Water-soluble – circulate in “free” form
    • Amine
    • Peptide/ protein
    • Eicosanoid
mechanisms of hormone action
Mechanisms of Hormone Action
  • Response depends on both hormone and target cell
  • Lipid-soluble hormones bind to receptors inside target cells
  • Water-soluble hormones bind to receptors on the plasma membrane
    • Activates second messenger system
    • Amplification of original small signal
  • Responsiveness of target cell depends on
    • Hormone’s concentration
    • Abundance of target cell receptors
    • Influence exerted by other hormones
      • Permissive, synergistic and antagonistic effects
control of hormone secretion
Control of Hormone Secretion
  • Regulated by
    • Signals from nervous system
    • Chemical changes in the blood
    • Other hormones
  • Most hormonal regulation by negative feedback
    • Few examples of positive feedback
what are endocrine disrupting substances edcs
What are endocrine-disrupting substances (EDCs)?
  • Exposure to EDCs can be environmental or developmental.
  • Natural or synthetic compounds that alter the hormonal and homeostatic systems that enable an organism to communicate with and respond to its environment.
key issues to understanding the consequences of exposure
Key issues to understanding the consequences of exposure
  • Dose/response
  • Long-term latent effects
  • Age at exposure
  • Latency from exposure
  • Mixture of chemicals
all endocrine systems are susceptible
All endocrine systems are susceptible

The endocrine disruptors have shared properties.

There are similarities in the receptors and enzymes involved in the synthesis, release, and degradation of hormones.

effects may be inherited
Effects may be inherited

Can be transmitted to future generations through epigenetic modifications or continued exposure of offspring to the compounds.

what does the evidence show
What does the evidence show?

There is strong evidence of adverse reproductive outcomes:




what does the evidence show1
What does the evidence show?

There is growing evidence for effects on other endocrine systems:



Obesity and metabolism

Insulin and glucose homeostasis

where are edcs
Where are EDCs?



Consumer products

what do edcs do
What do EDCs do?

EDCs interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism, or action.

Such interference results in a deviation from normal homeostatic control or reproduction.

the scientific statement of the endocrine society 2009
The Scientific Statement of the Endocrine Society (2009)

Presents evidence that EDCs have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology

edcs represent a public health concern
EDCs represent a public health concern

Based on

results from animal models

human clinical observations

epidemiological studies

mechanisms of edc action are diverse
Mechanisms of EDC action are diverse

Some pathways include:




Neurotransmitter receptors and systems

edcs represent a broad class of molecules
EDCs represent a broad class of molecules

Organochlorinated pesticides and industrial chemicals

Plastics and plasticizers


Others present in the environment or in widespread use

endocrine disruptors
Endocrine Disruptors

industrial solvents/lubricants:

Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs)

Polybrominatedbiphenols (PBBs)


Plastics: bisphenol A (BPA)

Plasticizers: phthalates

Pesticides: methoxychlor, chloropyrifos, DDT

Fungicides: vinclozolin

Pharmaceuticals: DES

endocrine disruptors1
Endocrine Disruptors

Natural chemicals in food and feed:

Phytoestrogens – genistein and coumestrol

- widely consumed and in infant formula (soy-


what do you notice about the structure of edcs as compared to steroids1
What do you notice about the structure of EDCs as compared to steroids?
  • It is the phenolic structure:
mode of action
Mode of action?
  • They are thought to mimic natural steroid hormone and enable EDCs to interact with steroid hormone receptors as analogs or antagonists.
  • Several classes of EDCs act as antiandrogens and as thyroid hormone receptor agonists or antagonists.
  • Androgenic EDCs have been identified.
how can we be exposed
How can we be exposed?
  • EDCs enter the food chain and can bioaccumulate (due to low water solubility and high lipid solubility.
  • Contaminated drinking water
  • Breathing contaminated air and contacting contaminated soil
  • Occupational exposure to pesticides and industrial chemicals
clinical challenges to diagnosis
Clinical Challenges to Diagnosis
  • Challenges to discerning EDC involvement in a particular disorder
    • Each person’s unique exposure to a variety of known and unknown EDCs
    • Individual differences in metabolism, body composition, and genetic traits
    • Human disorders usually result from long term chronic exposure to low levels of mixtures of EDCs
    • Latency between exposure to EDCs and occurrence of clinical disorder makes causal connection difficult (may be years or decades)
mechanisms of endocrine disruption
Mechanisms of Endocrine Disruption
  • EDCs act by more than one mechanism.
  • An EDC may have mixed steroidal properties: it may be both estrogenic and antiandrogenic.
  • An EDC may be metabolized into different subproducts with different properties.
  • Balance between estrogenic and androgenic properties of EDCs may be significant because reproduction in both sexes involves an interplay of androgens and estrogens.
mechanisms of endocrine disruption1
Mechanisms of Endocrine Disruption
  • Many organs are targeted by sex steroids and vulnerable to endocrine disruption.
    • Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal system
    • Breast
    • Uterus
    • Cervix
    • Vagina
    • Brain
    • Bone, muscle and skin

In addition, reproductive dysfunction can result from thyroid disruption

clinical impacts on female reproduction
Clinical Impacts on Female reproduction
  • Interference with development and function of the female reproductive tract can predispose women to:
      • Infertility
      • Ectopic gestation
      • Poor pregnancy outcomes
      • Endometriosis
      • Uterine fibroids
      • Altered anatomy and functionality
edcs linked to cancer
EDCs linked to cancer?
  • Hypothesized that the significant increase of breast cancer in the industrialized world in the last 50 years may be due to exposure to hormonally active chemicals.
  • Similar increase in incidence of testicular cancer, male genital tract abnormalities, and decrease in sperm quantity/quality suggest a link to the introduction of these chemicals into the environment.
neuroendocrine system
Neuroendocrine System
  • Interface between Nervous and Endocrine systems
  • Controls diverse functions, such as reproduction, stress, growth, lactation, metabolism and energy balance, osmoregulation, other homeostatic regulators
  • Mediates ability of organism to respond to environment through rapid (neuronal) and more sustained (endocrine) responses
neuroendocrine system1
Neuroendocrine System
  • Neuroendocrine cells in brain have both neuronal and endocrine properties
  • As a result, EDCs can have neurobiological and neurotoxic effects along with endocrine effects
  • Several levels of organization: the brain (hypothalamus), the pituitary gland, and a target organ
  • The reproductive Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonad (HPG) connection is the best studied in the area of endocrine disruption
endocrine disruption of reproductive neuroendocrine systems
Endocrine disruption of reproductive neuroendocrine systems
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) (also called Luteinizing hormone) is produced in the hypothalamus and drives reproduction throughout the life cycle. It is the primary stimulus to the pituitary and the gonads.
what gnrh does in the body
What GnRH does in the Body
  • GnRH release stimulates gonadotropin release from anterior pituitary
  • Gonadotropin release activates steroidogenesis and gametogenesis in the ovary and testes
  • Steroid hormones produced by the gonad act on target tissues that release estrogen, progestin and/or androgen receptors (AR)
  • Many EDCs interfere with steroid hormone actions
sex steroids control gnrh neurons
Sex steroids control GnRH neurons
  • But GnRH neurons do not have steroid receptors
  • This means that other cells in the brain that do have steroid receptors and that regulate GnRH cells through afferent neural inputs are targets for EDCs
  • Neuronal cells with steroid receptors include those that make neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) and can regulate GnRH neurons
  • EDCs have been shown to cause neurotoxicity to these neurons
  • This is evidence of convergence of effects of EDCs on the link between neural and endocrine systems