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Comp Biochem Physiol C Toxicol Pharmacol. 2009 Jan;149(1):58-64. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2008.07.002. Epub 2008 Jul 8.

Vitellogenin gene expression in the intertidal blenny Lipophrys pholis: a new sentinel species for estrogenic chemical pollution monitoring in the European Atlantic coast?

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  • 1CIIMAR-Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, Laboratory of Environmental Toxicology, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal.


The presence of estrogenic chemicals (ECs) in the aquatic environment is a growing problem. While most attention was initially given to fresh water and estuarine ecosystems, it is now evident that coastal marine areas are also vulnerable to these pollutants. The use of vitellogenin induction in male fish, a specific biomarker of EC exposure, has been the most widely applied methodology. However, in some occasions, the high mobility and migratory behaviour of common sentinel fish species makes data interpretation difficult. Hence, there is the need to validate new sentinel marine fish species which should display, among other features, a strong homing behaviour. The shanny, Lipophrys pholis, is an intertidal fish that combines many of the required characteristics for a sentinel species: abundance and easy of catch, wide geographical distribution and restricted home range. Thus, in order to evaluate, in the field, the species sensitivity to ECs, L. pholis males were collected at two sites reflecting different degrees of anthropogenic contamination. The vitellogenin II gene (VTGII) was isolated and its liver expression evaluated by RT-PCR in the field samples. A significant induction of gene expression was observed in the specimens collected in the urban area, if compared to the reference site, which suggests exposure to ECs. Moreover, a 21-days laboratory exposure to environmental relevant concentrations of ethinylestradiol (EE2) was also performed. A significant induction of L. pholis VTGII gene in EE2 exposed males was observed suggesting similar sensitivity to that of other marine/estuarine fishes. Even though further validation is currently in progress, the available data indicates that L. pholis is responsive to ECs, thus favouring its future integration in monitoring programmes designed to evaluate the presence of ECs in European marine ecosystems.

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