Zearalenone is an estrogenic mycotoxin that often contaminates plant material used in the production of feeds for companion animals. Small daily doses of ingested zearalenone - a competitive substrate modulating the activity of enzymes participating in estrogen biosynthesis at the pre-receptor level - can induce subclinical symptoms of hyperestrogenism in bitches. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of low zearalenone doses on the presence of estrogen receptors in the ovaries of pre-pubertal Beagle bitches. The bitches were divided into three groups of 10 animals each: experimental group I - 50 μg zearalenone/kg body weight administered once daily per os; experimental group II - 75 μg zearalenone/kg body weight administered once daily per os; control group - placebo containing no ZEN administered per os. The animals were ovariorectomized at the end of the experiment, at 112 days of age. Estrogen receptors were detected in ovarian specimens by immunohistochemical methods. The results revealed an absence of estrogen receptors alpha in all groups. In both experimental groups a decrease in the positive response of estrogen receptors beta in specified structures of ovaries was observed. Very low α-zearalenol levels probably attested to the slowing down (hypostimulation) of the biotransformation process. Overall, zearalenone intoxication led to hyperestrogenism during a specific developmental stage of pre-pubertal bitches. As regards hormesis, the threshold dose of zearalenone (adaptive capability) was exceeded in the ovaries of experimental group II animals. The results obtained in both experimental groups suggest that long-term exposure to low-dose zearalenone intoxication decreased the degree of estrogen receptors beta staining in particular structures of ovaries in the experimental bitches, which initiated epigenetic modification mechanisms that inhibited ovarian development.
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