Palermo CM, Foreman JE, Wikoff DS, Lea I. 2021. Development of a putative adverse outcome pathway network for male rat reproductive tract abnormalities with specific considerations for the androgen sensitive window of development. Curr Res Toxicol 22:2:254–271. doi: 10.1016/j.crtox.2021.07.002. PMID: 34401750; PMCID: PMC8350458.
Structured approaches like the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) framework offer great potential for depicting complex toxicological processes in a manner that can facilitate informed integration of mechanistic information in regulatory decisions. While this concept provides a structure for organizing evidence and facilitates consistency in evidence integration; the process, inputs, and manner in which AOPs and AOP networks are developed is still evolving. Following the OECD guiding principles of AOP development, we propose three AOPs for male reproductive tract abnormalities and derive a putative AOP network. The AOPs were developed using a fundamental understanding of the developmental biology of the organs of interest, paying close attention to the gestational timing of key events (KEs) to very specifically inform the domain of life stage applicability for the key event relationships (KERs). Chemical stressor data primarily from studies on low molecular weight phthalates (LMWPs) served to ‘bound’ the pathways of focus in this dynamic period of development and were integrated with the developmental biology data through an iterative process to define KEs and conclude on the extent of evidence in support of the KERs. The AOPs developed describe the linkage between 1) a decrease in Insl3 gene expression and cryptorchidism, 2) the sustained expression of Coup-tfII and hypospadias and 3) the sustained expression of Coup-tfII and altered Wolffian duct development/ epididymal agenesis. A putative AOP network linking AOP2 and AOP3 through decreased steroidogenic biosynthetic protein expression and converging of all AOPS at the population level impaired fertility adverse outcome is proposed. The network depiction specifies and displays the KEs aligned with their occurrence in gestational time. The pathways and network described herein are intended to catalyze collaborative initiatives for expansion into a larger network to enable effective data collection and inform alternative approaches for identifying stressors impacting this sensitive period of male reproductive tract development.