Sex-specific effects of bisphenol A on the signaling pathway of ESRRG in the human placenta

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Bisphenol A (BPA) exposure during pregnancy is associated with low fetal weight, particularly in male fetuses. The expression of estrogen-related receptor gamma (ESRRG), a receptor for BPA in the human placenta, is reduced in fetal growth restriction. This study sought to explore whether ESRRG signaling mediates BPA-induced placental dysfunction and determine whether changes in the ESRRG signaling pathway are sex-specific. Placental villous explants from 18 normal term pregnancies were cultured with a range of BPA concentrations (1 nM-1 μM). Baseline BPA concentrations in the placental tissue used for explant culture ranged from 0.04 to 5.1 nM (average 2.3 ±1.9 nM; n = 6). Expression of ESRRG signaling pathway constituents and cell turnover were quantified. BPA (1 μM) increased ESRRG mRNA expression after 24 h in both sexes. ESRRG mRNA and protein expression was increased in female placentas treated with 1 μM BPA for 24 h but was decreased in male placentas treated with 1 nM or 1 μM for 48 h. Levels of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (HSD17B1) and placenta specific-1 (PLAC1), genes downstream of ESRRG, were also affected. HSD17B1 mRNA expression was increased in female placentas by 1 μM BPA; however, 1 nM BPA reduced HSD17B1 and PLAC1 expression in male placentas at 48 h. BPA treatment did not affect rates of proliferation, apoptosis, or syncytiotrophoblast differentiation in cultured villous explants. This study has demonstrated that BPA affects the ESRRG signaling pathway in a sex-specific manner in human placentas and a possible biological mechanism to explain the differential effects of BPA exposure on male and female fetuses observed in epidemiological studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1278-1291
Number of pages14
JournalBiology of reproduction
Issue number6
Early online date26 Feb 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Bisphenol A
  • Estrogen-related receptor gamma
  • Human placenta
  • Placental dysfunction
  • Sex specific Manner


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