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Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Aug 1;36(15):3275-83.

Tissue distribution and depuration of 4-tert-octylphenol residues in the cyprinid fish, Scardinius erythrophthalmus.

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  • 1School of Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Science, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, United Kingdom.


Alkylphenols are present in the aquatic environment through the degradation of alkylphenolpolyethoxylate surfactants in sewage treatment works. Branched chain 4-alkylphenols have been shown to retard testicular growth and stimulate vitellogenin synthesis in freshwater fish. We conducted in vivo studies in order to determine the fate and persistence of radiolabeled 4-tert-octylphenol (tOP) in the cyprinid fish, rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus). Sexually mature rudd were exposed to a concentration of 4.7 microg/L of [14C] tOP in a flow through system for 10 days. Radioactive residues were extracted from soft tissues and analyzed by radio-high-performance liquid chromatography. tOP accumulated as the major residue in muscle, ovary, and testis with bioconcentration factors of 24, 85, and 169, respectively. tOP residues in blood, gill, kidney, liver, and bile were extensively metabolized. Analysis of tOP residues in bile revealed 10 major metabolites, which were identified by GC-MS as products of aromatic and aliphatic hydroxylation, glucuronidation, and glucosidation. Depuration studies with exposed fish placed in clean water for up to 10 days resulted in a rapid loss of soluble residues from the tissues with half-lives of between 0.7 and 1.0 days (muscle, testis, ovary, gill, blood, kidney), 1.7 days (liver), and 5.9 days (bile). A further portion of radioactive residues was extracted from blood, gill, kidney, and liver after alkaline digestion, suggesting the formation of covalently bound protein adducts in these tissues. This study suggests that although para-alkyphenolic xenoestrogens can accumulate in muscle and the gonads of adult fish, residues are rapidly depurated from these tissues. Furthermore, analysis of the parent alkylphenol in bile, after hydrolysis of the conjugates, is likely to significantly underestimate the total concentration of alkylphenol residues and may not serve as an appropriate biomarker for quantifying the exposure of wild fish to alkylphenols.

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