In utero exposure to endocrine disruptors and developmental neurotoxicity: Implications for behavioural and neurological disorders in adult life


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are a class of environmental toxicants that interfere with the endocrine system, resulting in developmental malformations, reproductive disorders, and alterations to immune and nervous system function. The emergence of screening studies identifying these chemicals in fetal developmental matrices such as maternal blood, placenta and amniotic fluid has steered research focus towards elucidation of in utero effects of exposure to these chemicals, as their capacity to cross the placenta and reach the fetus was established. The presence of EDCs, a majority of which are estrogen mimics, in the fetal environment during early development could potentially affect neurodevelopment, with implications for behavioural and neurological disorders in adult life. This review summarizes studies in animal models and human cohorts that aim to elucidate mechanisms of action of EDCs in the context of neurodevelopment and disease risk in adult life. This is a significant area of study as early brain development is heavily mediated by estrogen and could be particularly sensitive to EDC exposure. A network analysis presented using genes summarized in this review, further show a significant association with disorders such as major depressive disorder, alcoholic disorder, psychotic disorders and autism spectrum disorder. Functional outcomes such as alterations in memory, behaviour, cognition, learning memory, feeding behaviour and regulation of ion transport are also highlighted. Interactions between genes, receptors and signaling pathways like NMDA glutamate receptor activity, 5-hydroxytryptamine receptor activity, Ras-activated Ca2+ influx and Grin2A interactions, provide further potential mechanisms of action of EDCs in mediating brain function. Taken together with the growing pool of human and animal studies, this review summarizes current status of EDC neurotoxicity research, limitations and future directions of study for researchers.

Authors: Glancis Luzeena Raja, K Divya Subhashree, Kamalini Esther Kantayya
; Full Source: Environmental research 2021 Aug 3;203:111829. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.111829.