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Introduction: The Ecological Relevance of Chemically Induced Endocrine Disruption in Wildlife

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      Pesticide Mixtures, Endocrine Disruption, and Amphibian Declines: Are We Underestimating the Impact?

      Amphibian populations are declining globally at an alarming rate. Pesticides are among a number of proposed causes for these declines. Although a sizable database examining effects of pesticides on amphibians exists, the vast majority of these studies focus on toxicological effects (lethality, external malformations, etc.) at relatively high doses (parts per million). Very few studies focus on effects such as endocrine disruption at low concentrations. Further, most studies examine exposures to single chemicals only. The present study examined nine pesticides (four herbicides, two fungicides, and three insecticides) used on cornfields in the midwestern United States. Effects of each pesticide alone (0.1 ppb) or in combination were examined. In addition, we also examined atrazine and S-metolachlor combined (0.1 or 10 ppb each) and the commercial formulation Bicep II Magnum, which contains both of these herbicides. These two pesticides were examined in combination because they are persistent throughout the year in the wild. We examined larval growth and development, sex differentiation, and immune function in leopard frogs (Rana pipiens). In a follow-up study, we also examined the effects of the nine-compound mixture on plasma corticosterone levels in male African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). Although some of the pesticides individually inhibited larval growth and development, the pesticide mixtures had much greater effects. Larval growth and development were retarded, but most significantly, pesticide mixtures negated or reversed the typically positive correlation between time to metamorphosis and size at metamorphosis observed in controls: exposed larvae that took longer to metamorphose were smaller than their counterparts that metamorphosed earlier. The nine-pesticide mixture also induced damage to the thymus, resulting in immunosuppression and contraction of flavobacterial meningitis. The study in X. laevis revealed that these adverse effects may be due to an increase in plasma levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. Although it cannot be determined whether all the pesticides in the mixture contribute to these adverse effects or whether some pesticides are effectors, some are enhancers, and some are neutral, the present study revealed that estimating ecological risk and the impact of pesticides on amphibians using studies that examine only single pesticides at high concentrations may lead to gross underestimations of the role of pesticides in amphibian declines.
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        Predicted Exposures to Steroid Estrogens in U.K. Rivers Correlate with Widespread Sexual Disruption in Wild Fish Populations

        Steroidal estrogens, originating principally from human excretion, are likely to play a major role in causing widespread endocrine disruption in wild populations of the roach (Rutilus rutilus), a common cyprinid fish, in rivers contaminated by treated sewage effluents. Given the extent of this problem, risk assessment models are needed to predict the location and severity of endocrine disruption in river catchments and to identify areas where regulation of sewage discharges to remove these contaminants is necessary. In this study we attempted to correlate the extent of endocrine disruption in roach in British rivers, with their predicted exposure to steroid estrogens derived from the human population. The predictions of steroid estrogen exposure at each river site were determined by combining the modeled concentrations of the individual steroid estrogens [17β -estradiol (E2), estrone (E1), and 17α -ethinylestradiol (EE2)] in each sewage effluent with their predicted dilution in the immediate receiving water. This model was applied to 45 sites on 39 rivers throughout the United Kingdom. Each site studied was then categorized as either high, medium, or low “risk” on the basis of the assumed additive potency of the three steroid estrogens calculated from data derived from published studies in various cyprinid fish species. We sampled 1,438 wild roach from the predicted high-, medium-, and low-risk river sites and examined them for evidence and severity of endocrine disruption. Both the incidence and the severity of intersex in wild roach were significantly correlated with the predicted concentrations of the natural estrogens (E1 and E2) and the synthetic contraceptive pill estrogen (EE2) present. Predicted steroid estrogen exposure was, however, less well correlated with the plasma vitellogenin concentration measured in the same fish. Moreover, we found no correlation between any of the end points measured in the roach and the proportion of industrial effluents entering the rivers we studied. Overall, our results provide further and substantive evidence to support the hypothesis that steroidal estrogens play a major role in causing intersex in wild freshwater fish in rivers in the United Kingdom and clearly show that the location and severity of these endocrine-disrupting effects can be predicted.
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          Characterization of Atrazine-Induced Gonadal Malformations in African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) and Comparisons with Effects of an Androgen Antagonist (Cyproterone Acetate) and Exogenous Estrogen (17β-Estradiol): Support for the Demasculinization/Feminization Hypothesis

          Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor that both chemically castrates and feminizes male amphibians. It depletes androgens in adult frogs and reduces androgen-dependent growth of the larynx in developing male larvae. It also disrupts normal gonadal development and feminizes the gonads of developing males. Gonadal malformations induced by atrazine include hermaphrodites and males with multiple testes [single sex polygonadism (SSP)], and effects occur at concentrations as low as 0.1 ppb (μg/L). Here, we describe the frequencies at which these malformations occur and compare them with morphologies induced by the estrogen, 17β-estradiol (E2), and the antiandrogen cyproterone acetate, as a first step in testing the hypothesis that the effects of atrazine are a combination of demasculinization and feminization. The various forms of hermaphroditism did not occur in controls. Nonpigmented ovaries, which occurred at relatively high frequencies in atrazine-treated larvae, were found in four individuals out of more than 400 controls examined (1%). Further, we show that several types of gonadal malformations (SSP and three forms of hermaphroditism) are produced by E2 exposure during gonadal differentiation, whereas a final morphology (nonpigmented ovaries) appears to be the result of chemical castration (disruption of androgen synthesis and/or activity) by atrazine. These experimental findings suggest that atrazine-induced gonadal malformations result from the depletion of androgens and production of estrogens, perhaps subsequent to the induction of aromatase by atrazine, a mechanism established in fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals (rodents and humans).
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            [1 ] Beyond The Basics Ltd, Burnham, Bucks, United Kingdom, and Institute for the Environment, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, United Kingdom
            [2 ] Environmental and Molecular Fish Biology Group, The Hatherly Laboratories, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom
            Author notes

            In addition to employment at Brunel University, S. Jobling is also employed by Beyond the Basics Ltd., an independent consultancy. C. Tyler declares he has no competing financial interest.

            Journal
            Environ Health Perspect
            Environmental Health Perspectives
            National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
            0091-6765
            April 2006
            17 April 2006
            : 114
            : S-1
            : 7-8
            1874178
            10.1289/ehp.8046
            ehp0114s1-000007
            16818239
            This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original DOI
            Categories
            Monograph

            Public health

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