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Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2009 Aug;150(2):298-306. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2009.05.012. Epub 2009 May 27.

Exposure to waterborne 4-tert-octylphenol induces vitellogenin synthesis and disrupts testis morphology in the South American freshwater fish Cichlasoma dimerus (Teleostei, Perciformes).

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  • 1Lab. de Embriología Animal, Dpto. de Biodiversidad y Biología Experimental, FCEyN-UBA, Ciudad Universitaria, Pabellón II, 4o piso (C1428EHA), Buenos Aires, Argentina.


Exposure to environmental pollutants may disrupt endocrine functions and cause reproductive effects in human and wildlife populations. Various groups of chemicals have estrogen-like effects, including degradation products of alkylphenol polyethoxylates, such as 4-tert-octylphenol (OP). Laboratory studies have shown that exposure of male fish to xenoestrogens results in induction of circulating vitellogenin (Vtg), inhibition of testicular growth, testis abnormalities and formation of intersex gonads. In this study, the impact of the exposure to waterborne OP on reproductive aspects in the South American cichlid fish Cichlasoma dimerus was evaluated using qualitative changes in the levels of Vtg in plasma and surface mucus and histological alterations in the liver and gonads as endpoints. Adult males and females were exposed to OP via immersion during 60 days in aquaria under semi-static conditions, water changes being made every 84 h. Treatment groups were: control (ethanol 0.005%), OP 30, 150 and 300 microg/L. Using Western and Dot blot analysis, Vtg was detected in plasma and mucus of control and treated females and treated males, while no Vtg was observed in samples from control males. Morphological changes in the hepatocytes due to the accumulation of Vtg were observed in OP-exposed males. Impairment of testicular structure became apparent in males treated with the highest OP concentrations. The most salient pathological change was the alteration of lobular organization with increased testicular fibrosis and progressive disruption of spermatogenesis. No major changes were observed in ovarian architecture. Our results indicate that detection of Vtg in surface mucus may be a sensitive and non-invasive biomarker of the endocrine disrupting effects of environmental estrogens, resulting in a useful method for field monitoring.

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