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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Apr;114 Suppl 1:115-21.

Use of the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a sensitive in vivo test for detection of environmental antiandrogens.

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  • 1Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), Weymouth, Dorset, United Kingdom.


We have previously shown that exposure to exogenous androgens causes female sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) to produce the glue protein, spiggin, in their kidneys. This protein can be quantified by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay developed and validated at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. Here we report the development of an in vivo test for the detection of environmental antiandrogens. The system involves the simultaneous exposure of female sticklebacks to 17alpha-methyltestosterone (a model androgen) at 500 ng/L and suspected environmental antiandrogens over a period of 21 days. The spiggin content of the kidneys is then measured, and any antiandrogenic activity is evaluated by comparing the spiggin levels of female fish exposed to antiandrogens to those of female fish exposed solely to the model androgen. The assay detects the antiandrogenic activity of flutamide, vinclozolin (both used at 250 microg/L), linuron (at 150 microg/L), and fenitrothion (at 15 and 150 microg/L). These results provide the first evidence of in vivo antiandrogenic activity of both linuron and fenitrothion in teleosts. Although there are other suggested fish species that could be used for this purpose, the stickleback is the only widely available species in which it is now possible to study both estrogenic and antiandrogenic end points in the same individual. Furthermore, the species is endemic and ubiquitous in Europe, and it possesses many ecological traits that make it better suited than other potential species for field research into endocrine disruption.

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