Many human-made chemicals are called endocrine disruptors (EDs) because they have the potential to disrupt endocrine functions in exposed organisms. Many EDs can disrupt hormonal homeostasis by interfering with hormone receptor recognition, binding and activation, while others act by still unknown mechanisms. Among the EDs specifically affecting the female reproductive system, those with steroidogenic/antisteroidogenic effects have been extensively studied and the mechanisms of toxicity clarified also at molecular level. For many others, information is restricted to few epidemiological data and in vivo/in vitro experiments with animal models. This is the case of the dithiocarbamates, and in particular of the fungicide mancozeb, an ethylenedithiocarbamate widely used to protect fruit and vegetables, ginseng included, because of its low acute toxicity in humans. Although the mechanism(s) by which mancozeb may specifically act on female reproductive organs are largely unknown, data on experimental animals in vivo have demonstrated that the fungicide can induce several disturbances on estrus cycle. When used in vitro at concentrations considered too low to cause human health injuries, the fungicide impairs mouse embryo development and meiotic spindle assembly. The possibility that the female germ cell (the oocyte) could be a specific target of mancozeb suggests a role for this fungicide as probable inductor of infertility also in exposed human populations.
Keywords: Mancozeb, ovary, spindle, fertility, oocyte, granulosa cells, apoptosis, electron microscopy
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