IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to a disclaimer and a copyright notice.
European Flag    Europa The European Commission Research Agriculture FAIR
index by sub-area Animal and plant health, animal welfare
index by country Germany

Impact of endocrine disrupting agents in food on reproductive health in farm animals

Contract nr: FAIR-CT98-4071
Project nr: 4071
Project type: CA
Starting date: 01/01/1999
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 100,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 100,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Lucia PENA ALBERDI
Research topic: Animal health

Endocrine disrupting compounds, originating from agriculture or industry, accumulate in the environment. Ingested through food and water, they represent a potential threat to the health and reproduction of farm animals. Because almost all reproductive functions depend directly or indirectly on hormone action, it is very likely that endocrine active compounds affect fertility and reproduction. This Concerted Action (CA), which was prepared and organised during the Euroconference, 'Effects of Environmental Pollutants on Reproduction' and 3 meetings in 1997, brings together a number of European laboratories. The objective is to reach a consensus on harmonised experimental protocols, standardised analysis of the endocrine disrupting compounds investigated, and to exchange biological specimens for concerted use and investigation in laboratory of the partner with the highest skills in the required experimental technique.

The standardisation of experiments and exchange of knowledge and methodologies are the prime objectives of the Project. The Partners will concentrate on defined critical phases of female reproduction, i.e. no follicular development, oocyte maturation and fertilisation, oviduct and uterine function, early embryo development, gastrulation, foetal sexual differentiation and foetal-placental interactions. For each parameter studied, at least one of the Partners has an international reputation, as proven by their publication and experimental track record. The compounds to be investigated have been limited to organochloride pesticides, PCBs, alkylphenols, phthalate esters and phytooestrogens. The species studied are cattle, sheep, goats and rabbits. The CA was initiated to standardise tissue sample collection and analytical assays.

For the first time, 10 European laboratories will be performing experiments on the effects of endocrine disrupting compounds on various aspects of female reproductive health. The concentration of the compounds in the various biological specimens will be measured in an accredited laboratory which belonging to a Partner. as well as concentration, the focus will be on the metabolisation of the studied compounds - a biological process often overlooked in the past. The endocrine activity will be monitored in in vitro and in vivo tests in another Partner's laboratory. Bioaccumulation of endocrine disrupting compounds on the one hand, and the impact on reproductive health on the other, will be studied in in vivo experiments in cattle and sheep by application via food or drinking water. Uptake, retention, degradation, modification and excretion of these compounds and their effects on the reproductive performance of the exposed ruminants will be determined. In in vitro experiments, allowing for a defined exposure to the endocrine active compounds, effects on follicular and oocyte development, sperm fertilising capacity and fertilisation in vitro will be studied. Preimplantation embryos, either being exposed in vitro or in vivo, will be investigated for the expression of target genes, such as genes coding for chromatin organisation, or Ah-receptor expression in blastocysts and during gastrulation. Oviductal and uterine epithelial cells will be treated in vitro and studied for possible adverse effects regarding morpholgy and function. Gonadal and hypothalamic sexual differentiation of foetuses, originating from exposed pregnant ewes, and foetal-placental interactions during pregnancy in goats will complete our understanding of the effects of environmental pollutants on critical functions of reproductive health in farm animals.

Current situation/results:
Periodic Progress Report submitted February 15, 2000


Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Grosse Steinstrasse 52
D-06097 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: +49 345 557 17 01
Fax: +49 345 557 17 00


  • Torres SWEENY
    University College Dublin

  • Helen PICTON
    Centre for Reproduction, Growth and Development
    University of Leeds

  • Stewart RHIND
    Macaulay Land Use Research Institute

  • Fulvio GANDOLFI
    University of Milan
    Dept. of Anatomy of Domestic Animals

  • Stuart MILLIGAN
    King's College

  • Erik ROPSTAD
    Norwegian College of Veterinary Medicine

  • Jean-Paul RENARD
    F-Jouy en Josas

  • Marleen BOERJAN
    NL-ID Lelystad

  • Bram BROUWER
    Free University

  Search Top