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Mercury-induced reproductive impairment in fish

Crump, Kate L., Trudeau, Vance L.
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 2009 v.28 no.5 pp. 895-907
mercury, animal reproduction, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, neurotoxins, fish, hypothalamic regulation, neurotransmitters, pituitary hormones, spermatogenesis, testes, sperm motility, oogenesis, steroidogenesis, vitellogenesis, lipids, ovulation, spawning, eggs, embryo (animal), hatching
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and increasing levels have led to concern for human and wildlife health in many regions of the world. During the past three decades, studies in fish have examined the effects of sublethal mercury exposure on a range of endpoints within the reproductive axis. Mercury studies have varied from highly concentrated aqueous exposures to ecologically relevant dietary exposures using levels comparable to those currently found in the environment. This review summarizes data from both laboratory and field studies supporting the hypothesis that mercury in the aquatic environment impacts the reproductive health of fish. The evidence presented suggests that the inhibitory effects of mercury on reproduction occur at multiple sites within the reproductive axis, including the hypothalamus, pituitary, and gonads. Accumulation of mercury in the fish brain has resulted in reduced neurosecretory material, hypothalamic neuron degeneration, and alterations in parameters of monoaminergic neurotransmission. At the level of the pituitary, mercury exposure has reduced and/or inactivated gonadotropin-secreting cells. Finally, studies have examined the effects of mercury on the reproductive organs and demonstrated a range of effects, including reductions in gonad size, circulating reproductive steroids, gamete production, and spawning success. Despite some variation between studies, there appears to be sufficient evidence from laboratory studies to link exposure to mercury with reproductive impairment in many fish species. Currently, the mechanisms underlying these effects are unknown; however, several physiological and cellular mechanisms are proposed within this review.