The herbicide atrazine is the second most widely used weedkiller in the U.S., applied to corn and sorghum fields throughout the Midwest and also spread on suburban lawns and gardens. It was banned in Europe after studies linked the chemical to endocrine disruptions in fish and amphibians.
The UCSF study is the first to identify its full effect on human cells. It is being reported in the May 7 issue of the journal “PLoS ONE.”
In studies with human placental cells in culture, the UCSF scientists found that atrazine increased the activity of a gene associated with abnormal human birth weight when over-expressed in the placenta. Atrazine also targeted a second gene that has been found to be amplified in the uterus of women with unexplained infertility.
In parallel studies of zebrafish, a widely used animal in development studies, the research team showed that atrazine “feminized” the fish population – increasing the proportion of fish that developed into females. In water with atrazine concentrations comparable to those found in runoff from agricultural fields, the proportion of female fish increased two-fold. Environmental factors are known to influence the sex of zebrafish and many other fish and amphibians as they develop.
“These fish are very sensitive to endocrine disrupting chemicals, so one might think of them as ‘sentinels’ to potential developmental dangers in humans,” said Holly Ingraham, PhD, senior author on the study and a UCSF Professor of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology. “These atrazine- sensitive genes are central to normal reproduction and are found in steroid producing tissues. You have to wonder about the long-term effects of exposing the rapidly developing fetus to atrazine or other endocrine disruptors.”
Ingraham intends to determine precisely how atrazine affects human and other mammalian endocrine cells and why these cells are particularly sensitive to it. She notes that bisphenol A, a compound in many hard plastic consumer products, is also an endocrine disrupter and is now under increased study for its safety. In April, Canada announced a decision to ban sale of consumer products with bisphenol A.
The lead author of the study is Miyuki Suzawa, a postdoctoral fellow in Ingraham’s lab.
UCSF researchers exposed sexually immature zebrafish to atrazine and other chemicals for different periods of time. They found that exposure to atrazine for 48 hours at concentrations that might be found in water containing agricultural runoff, produced twice as many female fish.
Through genetic analysis, they found that atrazine preferentially activates a class of receptors in the cell nucleus, including two known as SF-1 and LRH-1. SF-1 regulates production of enzymes involved in the synthesis of steroids in the body and development of many endocrine tissues. One of these enzymes, known as Aromatase, plays a role in determining whether lower vertebrates, such as fish will become male or female. Aromatase is known as a feminizing enzyme.
In the human placental cell culture studies, the scientists found that a 24-hour exposure to atrazine activates a cluster of genes involved in hormone signaling and steroid synthesis.
They report, “Endocrine-related cell types with a capacity for steroid generation appear to be especially sensitive (to Atrazine), as demonstrated by the “exquisite” cellular specificity of the atrazine response.”
The finding that a pervasive and persistent environmental chemical appears to significantly change hormone networks means that scientists must take a broader look at this herbicide’s potential effect on human health, Ingraham said. Up to now, much of the focus has been on breast cancer, but since proper development of the endocrine system is important for normal reproduction, stress responses and metabolism, early exposure to this chemical in a fetus or infant might alter normal physiology later in life, she said.
Wallace Ravven | EurekAlert!
Organ Crosstalk: Fatty Liver Can Cause Damage to Other Organs
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Diabetesforschung
Modern genetic sequencing tools give clearer picture of how corals are related
17.08.2017 | University of Washington
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
17.08.2017 | Earth Sciences
17.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy