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Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2008 Jan 1;155(1):31-62. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Interference of endocrine disrupting chemicals with aromatase CYP19 expression or activity, and consequences for reproduction of teleost fish.

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  • 1Eawag, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Ueberlandstrasse 133, Postfach 611, CH 8600 Dübendorf, Switzerland.


Many natural and synthetic compounds present in the environment exert a number of adverse effects on the exposed organisms, leading to endocrine disruption, for which they were termed endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). A decrease in reproduction success is one of the most well-documented signs of endocrine disruption in fish. Estrogens are steroid hormones involved in the control of important reproduction-related processes, including sexual differentiation, maturation and a variety of others. Careful spatial and temporal balance of estrogens in the body is crucial for proper functioning. At the final step of estrogen biosynthesis, cytochrome P450 aromatase, encoded by the cyp19 gene, converts androgens into estrogens. Modulation of aromatase CYP19 expression and function can dramatically alter the rate of estrogen production, disturbing the local and systemic levels of estrogens. In the present review, the current progress in CYP19 characterization in teleost fish is summarized and the potential of several classes of EDCs to interfere with CYP19 expression and activity is discussed. Two cyp19 genes are present in most teleosts, cyp19a and cyp19b, primarily expressed in the ovary and brain, respectively. Both aromatase CYP19 isoforms are involved in the sexual differentiation and regulation of the reproductive cycle and male reproductive behavior in diverse teleost species. Alteration of aromatase CYP19 expression and/or activity, be it upregulation or downregulation, may lead to diverse disturbances of the above mentioned processes. Prediction of multiple transcriptional regulatory elements in the promoters of teleost cyp19 genes suggests the possibility for several EDC classes to affect cyp19 expression on the transcriptional level. These sites include cAMP responsive elements, a steroidogenic factor 1/adrenal 4 binding protein site, an estrogen-responsive element (ERE), half-EREs, dioxin-responsive elements, and elements related to diverse other nuclear receptors (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor, retinoid X receptor, retinoic acid receptor). Certain compounds including phytoestrogens, xenoestrogens, fungicides and organotins may modulate aromatase CYP19 activity on the post-transcriptional level. As is shown in this review, diverse EDCs may affect the expression and/or activity of aromatase cyp19 genes through a variety of mechanisms, many of which need further characterization in order to improve the prediction of risks posed by a contaminated environment to teleost fish population.

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