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Symbiotic Gene Activation is Interrupted by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

Environmental Endocrinolgy Laboratory, Center for Bioenvironmental Research at Tulane University, Tulane University Medical School, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

Academic Editor: Lawrence A. Frohman

Copyright © 2001 Jennifer E. Fox et al.


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) include organochlorine pesticides, plastics manufacturing by-products, and certain herbicides[1]. These chemicals have been shown to disrupt hormonal signaling in exposed wildlife, lab animals, and mammalian cell culture by binding to estrogen receptors (ER-α and ER-β) and affecting the expression of estrogen responsive genes[2,3]. Additionally, certain plant chemicals, termed phytoestrogens, are also able to bind to estrogen receptors and modulate gene expression, and as such also may be considered EDCs[4]. One example of phytoestrogen action is genistein, a phytochemical produced by soybeans, binding estrogen receptors, and changing expression of estrogen responsive genes which certain studies have linked to a lower incidence of hormonally related cancers in Japanese populations[5]. Why would plants make compounds that are able to act as estrogens in the human body? Obviously, soybeans do not intentionally produce phytoestrogens to prevent breast cancer in Japanese women.