My research interests center on the actions of steroid hormones and their receptors, and on the effects of the early endocrine environment on development of the reproductive system. Current research focuses on two main areas: a) the pathways involved in early differentiation and development of the prostate, and b) developmental effects of environmental endocrine disruption.
My main research focus is on effects and mechanisms of estrogen action during early development of the fetal prostate. Early prostate development and differentiation depend on the presence of androgens, but exposure to even very low levels of natural estrogens during fetal life can alter differentiation of the urogenital sinus, resulting in permanent increases in adult prostate size and prostatic androgen receptors. Exposure to synthetic estrogens, as well as to environmental chemicals that mimic endogenous hormones, can also profoundly impact prostate development. I am examining the effects of estrogens on the developing mouse prostate both in vivo and in vitro, combining whole organ and tissue culture with analysis of mRNA expression. This model system is being used to elucidate not only the mechanisms by which natural estrogens influence normal prostate growth and development, but also to examine consequences and mechanisms of endocrine disruption.