• chemical mixtures;
  • foetal testis;
  • phthalates;
  • reproductive effects


The reproductive effects of the coadministration of di-2-(ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and di-butyl phthalate (DBP) were studied in both foetal and adult male rat offspring exposed in utero. Pregnant Wistar rats were treated by oral gavage from gestation day 13 to 21 with vehicle control, 150 mg DEHP/kg body weight (bw)/day, 100 mg DBP/kg bw/ or a combination of the two compounds (DEHP 150 + DBP 100 mg/kg bw/day). An additional group of dams received 500 mg DBP/kg bw/day. A significant decrease in foetal testicular testosterone levels was observed in animals exposed to 500 mg DBP/kg/day or the phthalate mixture. Similarly, histological analysis of the foetal testis revealed that the coadministration of DEHP and DBP was able to increase the diameter of seminiferous cords and induce gonocyte multinucleation at doses that individually had no significant effects on these variables. However, in the phthalate mixture group, no significant changes were observed in anogenital distance and nipple retention, variables that are used to indicate possible anti-androgenic effects. Also, the adult endpoints investigated, that included reproductive organ weights and the number of spermatids per testis, were unaffected by any treatment regimen. Overall, coadministration of DEHP and DBP in utero significantly reduced testicular testosterone levels and resulted in misshapen seminiferous cords and gonocyte multinucleation in rat foetal testis. Our results also confirm that these foetal endpoints seem to be the most sensitive markers of prenatal phthalate exposure.