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() Can biomarkers be used to predict the reproductive effects of endocrine active chemicals in fish?

Thorpe, K1, 2, Benstead, R3, Hutchinson, T2, Tyler, C1, 1 University of Exeter, Exeter, Devon, UK2 Brixham Environmental Laboratory, Brixham, Devon, UK3 Environment Agency, Waterlooville, Hants, UK

ABSTRACT- Biomarkers provide sensitive tools for assessing potential impacts of chemical pollutants on organism function and health. A diverse array of biomarkers exists and many of these are diagnostic of particular classes of chemicals. As an example, in fish the induction/reduction of vitellogenin (VTG), a female yolk precursor, is used to identify chemicals which mediate their effects via the oestrogen receptor. More recently the induction/reduction of male secondary sexual characteristics (SSC) in fish has been used to signal for chemicals which can act via the androgen receptor and/or oestrogen receptor. In the following investigations, the relationship between VTG induction and SSC responses and alterations in fecundity, in pair breeding fathead minnows exposed to an oestrogen (oestrone, 32 to 1000 ng/L) and an anti-androgen (linuron 22 to 2200 mg/L) for 3 weeks, were evaluated. Exposure to oestrone resulted in a concentration-dependent reduction in fecundity (LOEC 1000 ng/L, P<0.05), and an increase in plasma VTG concentrations (LOEC 32 ng/L in males and 320 ng/L in females, P<0.05). A highly significant relationship was observed between the reduced fecundity and the increased plasma VTG concentrations in both the males and females (P<0.01). Exposure to linuron resulted in a concentration-dependent reduction in fecundity (LOEC 1000 ug/L, P<0.05), reduced plasma VTG concentrations in males (LOEC 2200 ug/L, P<0.05) and a reduction in the prominence of the SSCs in males (LOEC 220 ug/L, P<0.05). Highly significant relationships were observed between the reduced fecundity and both the reduced plasma VTG concentrations in both males and females and reduced SSCs in the males (P<0.01). The observed relationship between alterations in plasma VTG concentrations and SSCs and a reduced fecundity suggests that they may be predictive of effects on reproduction.

Key words: biomarker, fecundity, vitellogenin, fatpad

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