Estrogen and Vertebrate Steroid Hormones Essay

Submitted By jvien
Words: 380
Pages: 2

The term “endocrine disrupting chemicals” is commonly used to describe environmental agents that alter the endocrine system. Laboratories working in this emerging field—environmental endocrine research—have looked at chemicals that mimic or block endogenous vertebrate steroid hormones by interacting with the hormone’s receptor.
Environmental chemicals known to do this do so most often with receptors derived from the steroid/thyroid/retinoid gene family. They include ubiquitous and persistent organochlorines, as well as plasticizers, pharmaceuticals, and natural hormones. These chemicals function as estrogens, antiestrogens, and antiandrogens but have few, if any, structural similarities. Therefore, receptor-based or functional assays have the best chance of detecting putative biological activity of environmental chemicals. Three nuclear estrogen receptor forms—α, β, and γ—as well as multiple membrane forms and a possible mitochondrial form have been reported, suggesting a previously unknown diversity of signaling pathways available to estrogenic chemicals.
Examples of environmental or ambient estrogenization occur in laboratory experiments, zoo animals, domestic animals, wildlife, and humans. Environmentally estrogenized phenotypes may differ depending upon the time of exposure—i.e., whether the exposure occurred at a developmental (organizational and irreversible) or postdevelopmental (activational and reversible) stage. The term“ estrogen” must be defined in each case, since steroidal estrogens differ among themselves and from synthetic or plant-derived chemicals.
An “estrogen-like function” seems to be an evolutionarily ancient signal that has been retained in a number of chemicals, some of which are vertebrate hormones. Signaling, required for symbiosis between plants and bacteria, may be viewed, therefore, as an early example of hormone cross-talk.
Developmental feminization at the