CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Horm Metab Res 2024; 56(01): 78-90
DOI: 10.1055/a-2198-9307

Endocrine Disruptors: Focus on the Adrenal Cortex

Benedikt Pötzl
1   Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Lydia Kürzinger
1   Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Helga Stopper
2   Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Martin Fassnacht
1   Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Max Kurlbaum
1   Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
3   Central Laboratory, Core Unit Clinical Mass Spectrometry, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
Ulrich Dischinger
1   Department of Internal Medicine I, Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes, University Hospital of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany
› Author Affiliations
Fundings Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (CRC/Transregio 205 “The Adrenal: Central Relay in Health and Disease”, project number 314061271). Graduate School of Life Sciences, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are exogenous substances known to interfere with endocrine homeostasis and promote adverse health outcomes. Their impact on the adrenal cortex, corticosteroids and their physiological role in the organism has not yet been sufficiently elucidated. In this review, we collect experimental and epidemiological evidence on adrenal disruption by relevant endocrine disruptors. In vitro data suggest significant alterations of gene expression, cell signalling, steroid production, steroid distribution, and action. Additionally, morphological studies revealed disturbances in tissue organization and development, local inflammation, and zone-specific hyperplasia. Finally, endocrine circuits, such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, might be affected by EDCs. Many questions regarding the detection of steroidogenesis disruption and the effects of combined toxicity remain unanswered. Not only due to the diverse mode of action of adrenal steroids and their implication in many common diseases, there is no doubt that further research on endocrine disruption of the adrenocortical system is needed.

Publication History

Received: 30 May 2023

Accepted after revision: 24 October 2023

Accepted Manuscript online:
26 October 2023

Article published online:
03 January 2024

© 2024. The Author(s). This is an open access article published by Thieme under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonDerivative-NonCommercial-License, permitting copying and reproduction so long as the original work is given appropriate credit. Contents may not be used for commercial purposes, or adapted, remixed, transformed or built upon. (

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