Ability of xeno- and phytoestrogens to modulate expression of estrogen-sensitive genes in rat uterus: Estrogenicity profiles and uterotropic activity

Patrick Diel, Thorsten Schulz, Kai Smolnikar, Elisabeth Strunck, Günter Vollmer, Horst Michna

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209 Scopus citations


The function of the uterus is regulated by female sex steroids and it is, therefore, used as the classical target organ to detect estrogenic action. Uterine response to estrogens involves the activation of a large pattern of estrogen-sensitive genes. This fact offers the opportunity to analyze the estrogenic activity of xeno- and phytoestrogens, and the mechanisms of their molecular action by a correlation of the uterotropic activity and their ability to modulate the expression of estrogen-sensitive genes. We have analyzed the expression of androgen receptor (AR), progesterone receptor (PR), estrogen receptor (ER), clusterin (CLU), complement C3 (C3), and GAPDH mRNA in the rat uterus following oral administration of ethinylestradiol (EE), bisphenol A (BPA), o,p'-DDT (DDT), p-tert-octylphenol (OCT) and daidzein (DAI). A significant stimulation of the uterine wet weight could be observed after administration of all the substances. The activity of all analyzed compounds to stimulate uterine weight was low in comparison to EE. DDT has the highest activity to stimulate uterine weight whereas BPA and DAI turned out to be less potent. The analysis of gene expression revealed a very specific profile of molecular action in response to the different compounds which cannot be detected by judging the uterotropic response alone. A dose dependent analysis revealed that C3 mRNA is already modulated at doses where no uterotropic response was detectable. Although DAI and BPA were very weak stimulators of uterine growth, these substances were able to alter the expression of AR, ER and C3 very strongly. Based on these investigations the analyzed compounds can be subdivided into distinct classes: First, compounds which exhibit a similar gene expression fingerprint as EE (e.g. OCT); second, compounds exhibiting a significant uterotropic activity, but inducing a pattern of gene expression different from EE (e.g. DDT); and third, compounds like BPA and especially DAI which exhibit a very low uterotropic activity, but nevertheless modulate the expression of estrogen-sensitive genes. These findings strongly suggest that the fingerprint of uterine gene expression is a very sensitive tool to investigate estrogenicity of natural and synthetic compounds and offers the possibility to get information in regard to the molecular mechanisms involved in the action of the respective compounds. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 May 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Bisphenol A
  • Clusterin
  • Complement C3
  • Daidzein
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Uterus
  • Xenoestrogens


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