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      Atrazine induces complete feminization and chemical castration in male African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis)

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          Abstract

          The herbicide atrazine is one of the most commonly applied pesticides in the world. As a result, atrazine is the most commonly detected pesticide contaminant of ground, surface, and drinking water. Atrazine is also a potent endocrine disruptor that is active at low, ecologically relevant concentrations. Previous studies showed that atrazine adversely affects amphibian larval development. The present study demonstrates the reproductive consequences of atrazine exposure in adult amphibians. Atrazine-exposed males were both demasculinized (chemically castrated) and completely feminized as adults. Ten percent of the exposed genetic males developed into functional females that copulated with unexposed males and produced viable eggs. Atrazine-exposed males suffered from depressed testosterone, decreased breeding gland size, demasculinized/feminized laryngeal development, suppressed mating behavior, reduced spermatogenesis, and decreased fertility. These data are consistent with effects of atrazine observed in other vertebrate classes. The present findings exemplify the role that atrazine and other endocrine-disrupting pesticides likely play in global amphibian declines.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Hermaphroditic, demasculinized frogs after exposure to the herbicide atrazine at low ecologically relevant doses.

           T. Hayes,  A. Collins,  M. Lee (2002)
          Atrazine is the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. and probably the world. It can be present at several parts per million in agricultural runoff and can reach 40 parts per billion (ppb) in precipitation. We examined the effects of atrazine on sexual development in African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis). Larvae were exposed to atrazine (0.01-200 ppb) by immersion throughout larval development, and we examined gonadal histology and laryngeal size at metamorphosis. Atrazine (> or =0.1 ppb) induced hermaphroditism and demasculinized the larynges of exposed males (> or =1.0 ppb). In addition, we examined plasma testosterone levels in sexually mature males. Male X. laevis suffered a 10-fold decrease in testosterone levels when exposed to 25 ppb atrazine. We hypothesize that atrazine induces aromatase and promotes the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This disruption in steroidogenesis likely explains the demasculinization of the male larynx and the production of hermaphrodites. The effective levels reported in the current study are realistic exposures that suggest that other amphibian species exposed to atrazine in the wild could be at risk of impaired sexual development. This widespread compound and other environmental endocrine disruptors may be a factor in global amphibian declines.
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            A W-linked DM-domain gene, DM-W, participates in primary ovary development in Xenopus laevis.

            In the XX/XY sex-determining system, the Y-linked SRY genes of most mammals and the DMY/Dmrt1bY genes of the teleost fish medaka have been characterized as sex-determining genes that trigger formation of the testis. However, the molecular mechanism of the ZZ/ZW-type system in vertebrates, including the clawed frog Xenopus laevis, is unknown. Here, we isolated an X. laevis female genome-specific DM-domain gene, DM-W, and obtained molecular evidence of a W-chromosome in this species. The DNA-binding domain of DM-W showed a strikingly high identity (89%) with that of DMRT1, but it had no significant sequence similarity with the transactivation domain of DMRT1. In nonmammalian vertebrates, DMRT1 expression is connected to testis formation. We found DMRT1 or DM-W to be expressed exclusively in the primordial gonads of both ZZ and ZW or ZW tadpoles, respectively. Although DMRT1 showed continued expression after sex determination, DM-W was expressed transiently during sex determination. Interestingly, DM-W mRNA was more abundant than DMRT1 mRNA in the primordial gonads of ZW tadpoles early in sex determination. To assess the role of DM-W, we produced transgenic tadpoles carrying a DM-W expression vector driven by approximately 3 kb of the 5'-flanking sequence of DM-W or by the cytomegalovirus promoter. Importantly, some developing gonads of ZZ transgenic tadpoles showed ovarian cavities and primary oocytes with both drivers, suggesting that DM-W is crucial for primary ovary formation. Taken together, these results suggest that DM-W is a likely sex (ovary)-determining gene in X. laevis.
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              Atrazine-induced hermaphroditism at 0.1 ppb in American leopard frogs (Rana pipiens): laboratory and field evidence.

              Atrazine is the most commonly used herbicide in the United States and probably the world. Atrazine contamination is widespread and can be present in excess of 1.0 ppb even in precipitation and in areas where it is not used. In the current study, we showed that atrazine exposure (> or = to 0.1 ppb) resulted in retarded gonadal development (gonadal dysgenesis) and testicular oogenesis (hermaphroditism) in leopard frogs (Rana pipiens). Slower developing males even experienced oocyte growth (vitellogenesis). Furthermore, we observed gonadal dysgenesis and hermaphroditism in animals collected from atrazine-contaminated sites across the United States. These coordinated laboratory and field studies revealed the potential biological impact of atrazine contamination in the environment. Combined with reported similar effects in Xenopus laevis, the current data raise concern about the effects of atrazine on amphibians in general and the potential role of atrazine and other endocrine-disrupting pesticides in amphibian declines.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                March 09 2010
                March 09 2010
                March 01 2010
                March 09 2010
                : 107
                : 10
                : 4612-4617
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0909519107
                2842049
                20194757
                © 2010
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