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J Cell Biochem. 2008 Dec 15;105(6):1399-409. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21960.

Establishment of a transgenic yeast screening system for estrogenicity and identification of the anti-estrogenic activity of malachite green.

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Environmental Science Program, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong, China.


Endocrine disruptors refer to chemical compounds in the environment which interfere with the endocrine systems of organisms. Among them, environmental estrogens pose serious problems to aquatic organisms, in particular fish. It is therefore important and necessary to have a fast and low-cost system to screen the large number of different chemical compounds in the aquatic environment for their potential endocrine disrupting actions. In this study, a screening platform was developed to detect xenoestrogens in the aquatic environment using the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and applied for compound screening. The aim was to demonstrate any significant potential differences between the fish screening system and the human screening system. To this end, a yeast expression vector harboring a fish estrogen receptor alpha and a reporter vector containing the estrogen responsive element fused with the Escherichia coli LacZ gene were constructed. After transformation with these two vectors, the transformed yeast clones were confirmed by Western blotting and selected on the basis of the beta-galactosidase activity. In this transgenic yeast system, the natural estrogen (estradiol) and other known xenoestrogens such as diethylstilbestrol, bisphenol A, genistein and dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane exhibited dose-dependent activities. Using this system, more than 40 putative endocrine disruptors including phytoestrogens, pesticides, herbicides, industrial dyes and other industrial chemicals were screened. Ten of them were demonstrated to exhibit estrogenic actions. Industrial dyes such as malachite green (MG) that disrupt thyroid hormone synthesis are extensively used and are widely distributed in the aquatic environment. Using this system, MG did not show any estrogenic action, but was demonstrated to exhibit anti-estrogenic activity.

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