Mechanism of nitrofen teratogenesis

Environmental Health Perspectives
J M Manson


Nitrofen (2,4-dichloro-4'-nitrodiphenyl ether) is an herbicide with potent teratogenic activity in rats. When administered at doses as low as 0.15 mg/kg/day during organogenesis, abnormal development of the heart, kidneys, diaphragm, and lung occurs. The specific pattern of visceral malformations produced in the absence of overt maternal toxicity or embryolethality/cytotoxicity suggest that the compound perturbs processes unique or highly selective for embryonic differentiation. Despite findings of metabolic activation to mutagenic intermediates and carcinogenic activity in adult rodents, several lines of evidence indicate that teratogenicity is not based on mutagenic insult to the embryo. Rather, evidence is accumulating that nitrofen exerts a teratogenic effect via alterations in thyroid hormone status. The premature and pharmacologic exposure of the embryo to a nitrofen-derived thyromimetic challenge is believed to be the cause of abnormal morphogenesis of the heart, lungs, kidneys, and diaphragm. The parent compound itself could directly bind to embryonic nuclear receptors for T3, leading to altered differentiation of target organs. Alternatively, increased availability and placental transport of free thyroid hormones in th...Continue Reading


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