Endocrine Disruptors

Academic year
Subject Area
Integrative Biology
Language of Instruction
Other Languages of Instruction
Mode of Delivery
ECTS Credits
2nd Cycle Studies - Mestrado

Recommended Prerequisites

Basic knowledge (1st cycle level) of Cell Biology and Animal Physiology.

Teaching Methods

Lectures largely based on the analysis of scientific data.

Theoretical-practcal classes: analysis of case studies, presentation by students of scientific papers or topics related to subjects addressed in the lectures.

Seminars by invited researchers.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge of the endocrine effects of some environmenal pollutants, and of the mechanisms by which they might affect the development of the reproductive system, gametogenesis, hormonal control of reproduction and the development of the nervous system. Endocrine disruption provides the setting to study the mechanisms of hormonal action: biosynthesis, control of gene expression, epigenetic mechanisms and the fetal and perinatal programming of the development. The students will apply, integrate and deepen their knowledge on Physiology, Molecular Biology and Toxicology.

The course provides the scientific knowledge to critically assess the causal relationship between the exposure to environmental endocrine disruptors and the decrease in fertility and changes in the sex ratio observed in wild life and in humans.

Work Placement(s)



1. Animal reproduction. What are endocrine disruptors (EDs)? Sources of exposure, cases of endocrine disruption in wildlife and humans.

2. Effects on fertility

    2.1. Pesticides antagonists of androgens: effects on the sexual differentiation of the foetus; critical windows of exposure; effects on adult spermatogenesis.

    2.2. Phthalates: effects on testosterone biosynthesis and consequences on spermatogenesis; interaction with nuclear receptors; bioactivation.

    2.3. Xeno-estrogens and spermatogenesis; genetic reprogramming caused by xeno-estrogens.

    2.4. Dioxins, follicle development and infertility; the AhR receptor, interaction with the estrogen receptors.

    2.5. PAHs: follicle toxicity and endocrine disruption; bioactivation.

    2.6. PCBs: effects on oocyte and embryo viability, and on implantation. 

3. EDs in development and cancer

4.Transgenerational effects

Assessment Methods

Synthesis work: 15.0%
Oral presentation of a paper: 15.0%
Exam: 70.0%


Naz R.K. (Ed). (2005) Endocrine Disruptors: Effects on Male and Female Reproductive Systems (2ª Ed). CRC Press.


Report of the World Health Organization: State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (2012) Retrieved from www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/


Research and review papers.