The present study demonstrates a novel high-affinity neuronal target for endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which potentially cause psychological disorders. EDCs competitively inhibited the binding of bovine serum albumin-conjugated progesterone to recombinant human microtubule-associated protein 2C (rhMAP2C) with an inhibition constant at picomolar levels. In the rhMAP2C-stimulated tubulin assembly assay, agonistic enhancement was observed with dibutyl phthalate and pentachlorphenol and pregnenolone, while an inverse agonistic effect was observed with 4-nonylphenol. In contrast, progesterone and many of the EDCs, including bisphenol A, antagonized the pregnenolone-induced enhancement of rhMAP2C-stimulated tubulin assembly. These agonistic and inverse agonistic actions were not observed in tubulin assembly stimulated with Δ1-71 rhMAP2C, which lacks the steroid-binding site. Using a dark-field microscopy, pregnenolone and pentachlorphenol were observed to generate characteristic filamentous microtubules in a progesterone- or bisphenol A-reversible manner. In cultured hippocampal neurons, similar agonist-antagonist relationships were reproduced in terms of dendritic outgrowth. Fluorescent recovery after photobleaching of hippocampal neurons showed that pregnenolone and agonistic EDCs enhanced, but that 4-nonylphenol inhibited the MAP2-mediated neurite outgrowth in a progesterone- or antagonistic EDC-reversible manner. Furthermore, none of the examined effects were affected by mifepristone or ICI-182,786 i.e. the classical progesterone and estrogen receptor antagonists. Taken together, these results suggest that EDCs cause a wide variety of significant disturbances to dendritic outgrowth in hippocampal neurons, which may lead to psychological disorders following chronic exposure during early neuronal development.
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