Mammalian females are born with a finite number of nonrenewing primordial follicles, the majority of which remain in a quiescent state for many years. Because of their nonrenewing nature, these ‘‘resting’’ oocytes are particularly vulnerable to xenobiotic insult, resulting in premature ovarian senescence and the formation of dysfunctional oocytes. In this study, we characterized the mechanisms of ovotoxicity for three ovotoxic agents, 4-vinylcyclohexene diepoxide (VCD), methoxychlor (MXC), and menadione (MEN), all of which target immature follicles. Microarray analysis of neonatal mouse ovaries exposed to these xenobiotics in vitro revealed a more than twofold significant difference in transcript expression (p < 0.05) for a number of genes associated with apoptotic cell death and primordial follicle activation. Histomorphological and immunohistological analysis supported the microarray data, showing signs of primordial follicle activation and preantral follicle atresia both in vitro and in vivo. Sperm-oocyte fusion assays on oocytes obtained from adult Swiss mice treated neonatally revealed severely reduced sperm-egg binding and fusion in a dose-dependent manner for all the xenobiotic treatments. Additionally, lipid peroxidation analysis on xenobiotic-cultured oocytes indicated a dose-dependent increase in oocyte lipid peroxidation for all three xenobiotics in vitro. Our results reveal a novel mechanism of preantral ovotoxicity involving the homeostatic recruitment of primordial follicles to maintain the pool of developing follicles destroyed by xenobiotic exposure and to our knowledge provide the first documented evidence of short-term, low- and high-dose (VCD 40–80 mg/kg/day, MXC 50–100 mg/kg/day, MEN 7.5–15 mg/kg/day) neonatal exposure to xenobiotics causing long-term reactive oxygen species-induced oocyte dysfunction.
Toxicological Sciences Vol. 118, Issue 2, p. 653-666