Troy A RoepkeDepartment of Animal Sciences, School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA Environmental and Occupational Health Science Institute, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey, USA Rutgers Center for Lipid Research, Center for Nutrition, Microbiome, and Health, and New Jersey Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Health, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA
Reproduction is a complex process that is controlled centrally via a network of hypothalamic neurons to modulate the pulsatile release of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) and subsequently pituitary gonadotropins. The gonadotropins, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone, drive gametogenesis and hormone production from the gonads. The hypothalamic-pituitary exchange is controlled by gonadal steroids through negative and positive feedback mechanisms via steroid receptors. Due to the expression of these receptors, GnRH neurons, the hypothalamic neurons that control them, and pituitary gonadotropes are sensitive to exogenous compounds that interact with steroid and nuclear receptors or alter hormone production and metabolism. The compounds, called endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), are ubiquitous and persistent in human environments and could bioaccumulate in the body. EDCs include plasticizers (like bisphenol A), dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, flame retardants, and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS). Numerous studies have reported that perinatal, juvenile, or adult exposure to these EDCs, primarily in rats, disrupt the hypothalamic control of pituitary gonadotropin production leading to disruption of gonadal steroid production and estrous cyclicity. The purpose of this review is to evaluate these studies primarily focusing on GnRH and kisspeptin neurons and anterior pituitary gonadotropins and to discuss the need for deeper investigations into the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.