Prenatal DES induces malformation of external genitalia of male and female mice in two generations

DiEthylStilbestrol transgenerational effects on the genital tract


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Prenatal DES exposure induces malformations of ExG in both sexes and strains of mice, and certain malformations are transmitted to the second-generation.
  • Objective criteria of prenatally DES-induced adult mouse hypospadias are presented for the first time.
  • The incidence of penile and preputial hypospadias was higher in C57BL/6 versus CD-1 mice consistent with enhanced estrogen sensitivity of C57BL/6 mice.
  • The incidence of urethral–vaginal fistula was similar in prenatally DES-treated mice of both strains.
  • Prenatally DES-induced male hypospadias and urethral–vaginal fistula were transmitted to second-generation mice.


Potential trans-generational influence of diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure emerged with reports of effects in grandchildren of DES-treated pregnant women and of reproductive tract tumors in offspring of mice exposed in utero to DES. Accordingly, we examined the trans-generational influence of DES on development of external genitalia (ExG) and compared effects of in utero DES exposure in CD-1 and C57BL/6 mice injected with oil or DES every other day from gestational days 12 to 18.Mice were examined at birth, and on 5–120 days postnatal to evaluate ExG malformations.

Of 23 adult (>60 days) prenatally DES-exposed males, features indicative of urethral meatal hypospadias ranged from 18% to 100% in prenatally DES-exposed CD-1 males and 31% to 100% in prenatally DES-exposed C57BL/6 males. Thus, the strains differed only slightly in the incidence of male urethral hypospadias. Ninety-one percent of DES-exposed CD-1 females and 100% of DES-exposed C57BL/6 females had urethral–vaginal fistula. All DES-exposed CD-1 and C57BL/6 females lacked an os clitoris. None of the prenatally oil-treated CD-1 and C57BL/6 male and female mice had ExG malformations.

For the second-generation study, 10 adult CD-1 males and females, from oil- and DES-exposed groups, respectively, were paired with untreated CD-1 mice for 30 days, and their offspring evaluated for ExG malformations. None of the F1 DES-treated females were fertile. Nine of 10 prenatally DES-exposed CD-1 males sired offspring with untreated females, producing 55 male and 42 female pups. Of the F2 DES-lineage adult males, 20% had exposed urethral flaps, a criterion of urethral meatal hypospadias. Five of 42 (11.9%) F2 DES lineage females had urethral–vaginal fistula. In contrast, all F2 oil-lineage males and all oil-lineage females were normal.

Thus, prenatal DES exposure induces malformations of ExG in both sexes and strains of mice, and certain malformations are transmitted to the second-generation.


  • Prenatal diethylstilbestrol induces malformation of the external genitalia of male and female mice and persistent second-generation developmental abnormalities of the external genitalia in two mouse strains, ScienceIndex, stories/4604450, 18 Oct 2014.
  • Full text: Elsevier, article/pii/S0301468114000553, DOI: 10.1016/j.diff.2014.09.005.
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