There is controversy over the potential endocrine modulating influence of pesticides, particularly during sensitive phases of development. In this study, ram lambs were exposed to lindane and pentachlorophenol from conception to necropsy at 28 weeks of age. The rams (and their mothers) were given untreated feed (n = 7) or feed treated with 1 mg kg−1 body weight per day of lindane (n = 12) or pentachlorophenol (n = 5). Semen was collected from 19 weeks onwards and reproductive behaviour was tested at 26 weeks. Serum was collected every 2 weeks and at 27 weeks every 15 min for 6 h during both day and night, and for 1 h before and 5 h after stimulation with GnRH, adrenocorticotrophic hormone and thyroid-stimulating hormone. The pesticides did not affect body weight and ejaculate characteristics, or cause overt toxicity. In pentachlorophenol-treated rams, scrotal circumference was increased. However, seminiferous tubule atrophy was more severe and epididymal sperm density was reduced in comparison with untreated rams at necropsy (P < 0.05). Thyroxine concentrations were lower in pentachlorophenol-treated rams than in untreated rams (P < 0.05). However, after thyroid-stimulating hormone treatment, the thyroxine response was unaltered. Reproductive behaviour was reduced in lindane-treated rams compared with control rams (P < 0.05). Serum LH and oestradiol concentrations during reproductive development, LH pulse frequency at 27 weeks and testosterone secretion after GnRH treatment were lower in lindane-treated rams than in untreated rams (P < 0.05). In summary, the effects of pentachlorophenol on the testis may be linked to a decrease in thyroxine concentrations, and reduced reproductive behaviour in lindane-treated rams may be related to decreased LH, oestradiol and testosterone concentrations.
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