The purpose of this study was to examine whether gestational and lactational exposure to environmental endocrine disrupting chemical, nonylphenol (NP), in pregnant dams would lead to the alterations in hormone levels in the body, apoptosis and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) in hippocampus during weaning and sexual maturity periods in pups of rats.
Dams were gavaged with NP at dose levels of 25 mg/kg/day (low dose), 50 mg/kg/day (middle dose), 100 mg/kg/day (high dose) and groundnut oil alone (vehicle control) respectively from gestational day 6 to postnatal day (PND) 21.
At PND 21, serum testosterone (TT) level significantly decreased in the 50, 100 mg/kg NP-treated groups compared with the control (p < 0.01). Serum estradiol (E2) level was increased with the increase in the NP concentration; a dose–effect relationship was revealed (r = 0.462, p < 0.01). At both PND 21 and PND 60, pups exposed to 100 mg/kg/day NP had an obviously higher apoptotic rate than control did. We observed a significant positive correlation between the dose of NP and the apoptotic rate (r = 0.836, p < 0.05). The number of GFAP-positive cells in rat hippocampus and integral optical density (IOD) of 100 mg/kg/day NP-treated group were much higher than the control group. GFAP mRNA expressions increased at high dose (100 mg/kg/day) (p < 0.05), and positive correlations between the GFAP mRNA expressions and NP level was observed (r = 0.586, 0.737, p < 0.05). Both the number of growth-associated protein (GAP)-43 positive cells and IOD were much lower at high dose (100 mg/kg/day) than the control at both PND 21 and PND 60 (p < 0.05). The number of GAP-43 positive cells was negatively correlated with the NP exposure dose (r = − 0.562, − 0.649, p < 0.05) at these two time points. GAP-43 mRNA expressions in the hippocampus of pups decreased dramatically at high dose (100 mg/kg/day) at both PND 21 and PND 60 compared with the control (p < 0.05).
High exposure to NP might inhibit neuronal development and differentiation as indicated by the reduction of the neurotrophic factor GAP-43.