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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2003 Feb;44(2):247-56.

The effects of anti-androgenic and estrogenic disrupting contaminants on breeding gland (nuptial pad) morphology, plasma testosterone levels, and plasma vitellogenin levels in male Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog).

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Ecophysiology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa.


Nuptial pads are areas, digits, and forearm characterized by epidermal keratin hooks and dermal breeding glands opening on the epidermis surface in male frogs. The presence of the epidermal hooks and secretory activity of the breeding glands are androgen-dependent and considered functioning during mating. Chemical pollutants released into the aquatic environment by humans are suspected of disrupting the normal hormonal pathways and functioning. Among the best known of these endocrine-disrupting contaminants (EDCs) are compounds that mimic the steroid 17beta-estradiol. However, recently specific anti-androgenic activity by certain EDCs, including DDE and several fungicides, have been shown in mammalian studies. The African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis, has been proposed as an ideal species to be used as a model system for screening of endocrine disruptors. In this study we employed a newly developed ELISA for the measurement of plasma vitellogenin (VTG), normally produced in the liver of females under the influence of estrogens but also in males when exposed to exogenous estrogens. Furthermore, we investigated the potential of breeding (nuptial) gland activity to be employed as a biomarker system for screening for anti-androgenic activity by certain EDCs. Our results indicate that the pharmaceutic anti-androgen flutamide did significantly (p < 0.05) effect the androgen-dependent breeding (nuptial) glands and plasma testosterone concentrations in male X. laevis. Our results further confirm that the dicarboximide fungicide vinclozolin mimics the anti-androgenic action of flutamide. Vinclozolin, however, did not significantly effect the plasma testosterone concentration. Results also confirm the ability of 17beta-estradiol to stimulate production and release of VTG in the liver of male X. laevis, although we could not confirm the in vivo induction of VTG by estrogenic mimics octylphenol and nonylphenol. Although more dose-response research is needed, this preliminary study confirms the potential of VTG production and breeding gland activity as biomarkers to screen chemicals and environmental samples for estrogenic and anti-androgenic activity using X. laevis males.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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