Screening of selected pesticides for inhibition of CYP19 aromatase activity in vitro

A.M. Vinggaard, C. Hnida, V. Breinholt, John Christian Larsen

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Many pesticides are able to block or activate the steroid hormone receptors and/or to affect the levels of sex hormones, thereby potentially affecting the development or expression of the male and female reproductive system or both. This emphasizes the relevance of screening pesticides for a wide range of hormone-mimicking effects. Twenty-two pesticides were tested for their ability to affect CYP19 aromatase activity in human placental microsomes using the classical [H-3](2)O method. Prochloraz, imazalil, propioconazole, fenarimol, triadimenol, triadimefon tall fungicides), and dicofol tan acaricide) gave rise to a statistically significant inhibition of aromatase activity. The IC(50)s of prochloraz, imazalil, propioconazole fenarimol, triadimenol, and triadimefon were calculated from dose-response curves to be 0.04, 0.34, 6.5, 10, 21 and 32 mu M, respectively, The IC50 Of dicofol was greater than 50 mu M. The positive control 4-hydroxyandrostendione (1 mu M) caused an inhibition of aromatase activity by 74%. The compounds, which did not affect the aromatase activity, were bromopropylate, chlorfenvinphos. chlorobenzilate, chlorpyrifos, diuron, heptachlor, iprodion, linuron, pentachlorphenol, procymidon, propyzamide, quintozen, tetrachlorvinphos and tetradifon. With the purpose of comparing the results for fenarimol obtained with the microsomal system with data from an intact cell system, an aromatase assay based on JEG-3 cells was established. 4-Hydroxyandrostendione (1 mu M) inhibited the aromatase activity in JEG-3 cells by 94%. The IC50 for fenarimol in this system was 2 mu M, slightly lower than that observed in the microsomal system. For the first time, fenarimol has been demonstrated to inhibit aromatase activity in human tissues and, furthermore, propioconazole, triadimefon, and triadimenol were identified as weak aromatase inhibitors. In conclusion, seven out of 22 tested pesticides turned out to be weak to moderate aromatase inhibitors in vitro, indicating the relevance of elucidating the endocrine effects in vivo of these compounds.
Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicology in Vitro
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)227-234
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • aromatase
  • endocrine disruptor
  • pesticides
  • JEG 3 cells
  • fenarimol


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