Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a family of toxicants that persist in measurable quantities in human and wildlife tissues, despite their ban in production in 1977. Some PCB mixtures can act as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) by mimicking or antagonizing the actions of hormones in the brain and periphery. When exposure to hormonally active substances such as PCBs occurs during vulnerable developmental periods, particularly prenatally or in early postnatal life, they can disrupt sex-specific patterning of the brain, inducing permanent changes that can later be manifested as improper sexual behaviors. Here, we investigated the effects of prenatal exposure to the PCB mixture Aroclor (A) 1221 on adult female reproductive behaviors in a dose-response model in the Sprague-Dawley rat. Using a paced mating paradigm that permits the female to set the timing of mating and control contact with the male during copulation, we were able to uncover significant differences in female-typical sexual activities in A1221-exposed females. Specifically, A1221 causes significant effects on mating trial pacing, vocalizations, ambulation and the female's likelihood to mate. The results further demonstrate that the intermediate treatment group has the greatest number of disrupted endpoints, suggestive of non-linear dose responses to A1221. These data demonstrate that the behavioral phenotype in adulthood is disrupted by low, ecologically relevant exposures to PCBs, and the results have implications for reproductive success and health in wildlife and women. © 2006 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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