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Environ Health Perspect. 2006 May;114(5):752-8.

Assessment of xenoestrogens using three distinct estrogen receptors and the zebrafish brain aromatase gene in a highly responsive glial cell system.

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Endocrinologie Moléculaire de la Reproduction, Université de Rennes, Rennes, France.


The brain cytochrome P450 aromatase (Aro-B) in zebrafish is expressed in radial glial cells and is strongly stimulated by estrogens (E2); thus, it can be used in vivo as a biomarker of xenoestrogen effects on the central nervous system. By quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, we first confirmed that the expression of Aro-B gene is robustly stimulated in juvenile zebrafish exposed to several xenoestrogens. To investigate the impact of environmental estrogenic chemicals on distinct estrogen receptor (ER) activity, we developed a glial cell-based assay using Aro-B as the target gene. To this end, the ER-negative glial cell line U251-MG was transfected with the three zebrafish ER subtypes and the Aro-B promoter linked to a luciferase reporter gene. E2 treatment of U251-MG glial cells cotransfected with zebrafish ER-alpha and the Aro-B promoter-luciferase reporter resulted in a 60- to 80-fold stimulation of luciferase activity. The detection limit was <0.05 nM, and the EC50 (median effective concentration) was 1.4 nM. Interestingly, in this glial cell context, maximal induction achieved with the Aro-B reporter was three times greater than that observed with a classical estrogen-response-element reporter gene (ERE-tk-Luc). Dose-response analyses with ethynylestradiol (EE2), estrone (E1), alpha-zeralenol, and genistein showed that estrogenic potency of these agents markedly differed depending on the ER subtype in the assay. Moreover, the combination of these agents showed an additive effect according to the concept of concentration addition. This confirmed that the combined additive effect of the xenoestrogens leads to an enhancement of the estrogenic potency, even when each single agent might be present at low effect concentrations. In conclusion, we demonstrate that our bioassay provides a fast, reliable, sensitive, and efficient test for evaluating estrogenic potency of endocrine disruptors on ER subtypes in a glial context.

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