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Environ Sci. 2007;14(5):263-83.

Three-spined stickleback: an emerging model in environmental endocrine disruption.

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  • 1Cefas Weymouth Laboratory, Barrack Road, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UB, UK.


The three-spined stickleback, a small teleost species with habitats that range from full marine to fresh water bodies across the whole Northern hemisphere, has a number of advantages for endocrine disruption research. It is the only teleost species with an unambiguous biomarker for androgens, the presence of the glue protein spiggin in the male kidney, which can be measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The androgen assay has been adopted to detect antiandrogens in two different ways and an homologous ELISA for stickleback vitellogenin is also available. DNA markers for molecular sex determination are available; thus, sex ratios can also be used for in situ biomonitoring. In addition, the critical period of sexual differentiation has been determined and the occurrence of intersex fish has been reported several times. The species full genome sequence is almost complete. All aspects of stickleback biology (ecology, evolution, behavior, physiology, endocrinology) are well documented. In European waters, the stickleback is the only fish that can bring laboratory and field studies together and allow the true impact of endocrine disruptors on fish populations to be evaluated.

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