Ovotoxicity in female fischer rats and B6 mice induced by low-dose exposure to three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: Comparison through calculation of an ovotoxic index

S. M. Borman, P. J. Christian, I. G. Sipes, P. B. Hoyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Extensive destruction of primordial follicles by exposure to ovarian toxicants can cause early menopause in women. Primordial follicle destruction is known to result from dosing of mice and rats with three polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), contaminants commonly found in cigarette smoke. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare relative ovotoxicity in mice and rats using the PAHs, 9,10-dimethylbenzanthracene (DMBA), 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC), and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP). Female B6C3F1 mice and Fischer 344 rats (age 28 days) were dosed daily (ip) with vehicle control or a range of doses of the PAHs. Two groups were dosed with the occupational chemicals 4-vinylcyclohexene (VCH; 500 mg/kg ip) or its diepoxide metabolite (VCD; 80 mg/kg ip), other known ovotoxicants. After 15 days, ovaries were collected, histologically prepared, and follicles were microscopically classified (primordial, primary, or secondary) and counted. The dose of each chemical that produced 50% loss of primordial follicles (p < 0.05) was determined (ED50) and used to calculate an ovotoxic index (OI) in mice and rats (ED50 x 15 days). Thus, a chemical with a lower OI is more toxic. Primordial follicles in mice displayed a lower OI than rats to all chemicals tested (mouse: DMBA, 0.0012; 3-MC, 0.003; BaP, 0.18; VCD, 6.8; VCH, 69; rat: DMBA, 0.45; 3-MC, >3.4; BaP, >3.6; VCD, 8.6; VCH, >69). In mice, DMBA targeted primordial follicles at a 10-fold lower concentration than primary and secondary follicles, whereas 3-MC exposure targeted primordial and primary follicles to a similar degree. BaP exposure targeted primordial and primary follicles at a 100-fold higher concentration than DMBA or 3-MC. Although BaP and 3-MC did not target secondary follicles in mice, secondary follicles in rats were most susceptible to 3-MC. Furthermore, all three PAHs were more ovotoxic (lower OI) with repeated low-dose exposure compared with OIs calculated from other studies using single high-dose exposures. The earliest day of impending primordial follicle loss (increase in percentage of unhealthy follicles, p < 0.05) in mice was factored into the OI (ED50 x first day of damage, p < 0.05 x % healthy follicles remaining, relative to control). The revised OI became DMBA d15, 0.0006; 3-MC d12, 0.0008; BaP d15, 0.132; and VCD d8, 2.96. These results predict that DMBA is the most potent ovarian toxicant (lower OI) in both species but VCD damages primordial follicles after shorter exposures. Calculation of the OI in mice and rats represents a method for comparing the relative potential risk of a variety of chemicals that produce ovarian damage at low levels following repeated exposures. The results also demonstrate that low-dose repeated exposures are substantially more toxic to the ovary than a single high-dose exposure. This finding is particularly important in view of the implications for chronic low-dose exposures of women to environmental chemicals. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-198
Number of pages8
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 15 2000


  • Low-dose repeated exposures
  • Ovotoxicity
  • PAHs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology


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