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Estrogenic and androgenic effects of municipal wastewater effluent on reproductive endpoint biomarkers in three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Björkblom, Carina, Högfors, Eva, Salste, Lotta, Bergelin, Eija, Olsson, Per-Erik, Katsiadaki, Ioanna, Wiklund, Tom
Environmental toxicology and chemistry 2009 v.28 no.5 pp. 1063-1071
Gasterosteus aculeatus, fish, wastewater, effluents, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, testes, ovaries, methyltestosterone, estradiol, vitellogenin, androgens, steroid hormones, histopathology, biomarkers, animal models
Municipal wastewater treatment plants have been associated with the release of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which consequently lead to alterations of reproductive function in aquatic organisms. The three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) has quantifiable biomarkers for assessment of both estrogen (vitellogenin) and androgen (spiggin) activity, which makes this species very valuable in the research of endocrine disruption. The estrogenic and androgenic biomarkers were used for evaluating exposure effects of municipal wastewater effluent. We evaluated the effects of 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), 17α-methyltestosterone (MT), and wastewater effluents on induction of vitellogenin and spiggin production, gonadosomatic index, hepatosomatic index, nephrosomatic index, plasma steroid levels, and histopathology. Adult female and male sticklebacks were exposed to 20 ng/L of EE2, 10 microgram/L of MT, and wastewater effluent (10, 50, and 80% of original concentration) in a flow-through system for an exposure of one week and an extended exposure of four weeks. Chemical analyses of the steroids were done for verification of exposure concentrations and presence in the used wastewater. Our results show that municipal wastewater effluent exerts estrogenic action on three-spined stickleback as observed by elevated vitellogenin levels in exposed fish, corresponding to the effect seen in fish exposed to EE2. Furthermore, wastewater and EE2 exerted similar histopathological effects on testis of exposed fish. Although domestic effluent is suspected to have a high content of natural androgens, no obvious androgenic effect of wastewater was observed in the present study.