Perinatal exposure to genistein alters reproductive development and aggressive behavior in male mice

Amy B. Wisniewski, Amy Cernetich, John P. Gearhart, Sabra L. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals adversely affects reproductive development and behavior in males. The goal of this study was to determine if exposure to genistein, an isoflavone found in soy, during early periods of sex differentiation alters reproductive development and behavior in male mice. Female C57BL/6 mice were fed a phytoestrogen-free diet supplemented with 0, 5 or 300 mg/kg of genistein throughout gestation and lactation. Anogenital distance (AGD) and body mass of male offspring was measured weekly from postnatal days 2-21, timing of preputial separation was assessed at puberty, and in adulthood, reproductive organ masses, sperm and testosterone production, and reproductive and aggressive behaviors were assessed. Exposure to genistein resulted in smaller AGD are reduced body mass, with the low-dose diet exerting a greater effect. Timing of preputial separation, adult reproductive behavior, sperm concentrations and testosterone production were not influenced by genistein treatment at either dose. Aggressive behaviors were decreased, whereas defensive behaviors were increased, in males that received the low-dose genistein diet. Exposure to genistein during critical periods of sex differentiation results in concurrent and persistent demasculinization in male mice. Phenotypic and behavioral abnormalities induced by genistein showed a non-monotonic response, where treatment with a low dose exerted a greater effect than treatment with a high dose of genistein. Given the popularity of soy infant formulas, the influence isoflavone exposure on reproductive and behavioral health in boys and men should be considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-334
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 15 2005


  • Demasculinization
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Sexual dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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