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Phytoestrogen signaling and symbiotic gene activation are disrupted by endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Agricultural Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Medicine


Some organochlorine pesticides and other synthetic chemicals mimic hormones in representatives of each vertebrate class, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and fish. These compounds are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Similarly, hormonelike signaling has also been observed when vertebrates are exposed to plant chemicals called phytoestrogens. Previous research has shown the mechanism of action for EDCs and phytoestrogens is as unintended ligands for the estrogen receptor (ER). Although pesticides have been synthesized to deter insects and weeds, plants produce phytoestrogens to deter herbivores, as attractant cues for insects, and as recruitment signals for symbiotic soil bacteria. Our data present the first evidence that some of the same organochlorine pesticides and EDCs known to disrupt endocrine signaling through ERs in exposed wildlife and humans also disrupt the phytoestrogen signaling that leguminous plants use to recruit Sinorhizobium meliloti soil bacteria for symbiotic nitrogen fixation. Here we report that a variety of EDCs and pesticides commonly found in agricultural soils interfere with the symbiotic signaling necessary for nitrogen fixation, suggesting that the principles underlying endocrine disruption may have more widespread biological and ecological importance than had once been thought.

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