Several chemicals that are used by humans, such as pesticides and plastics, are released into the aquatic environment through wastewater and runoff and have been shown to be potent disruptors of androgen synthesis at high concentrations. Although many of these chemicals have been studied in isolation, a large amount of uncertainty remains over how fish respond to low concentrations of anti-androgenic mixtures, which more accurately reflects how such chemicals are present in the aquatic environment. In this study male fathead minnows (FHM) (Pimephales promelas) were exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of two anti-androgens, the herbicide linuron, and the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) individually and as part of a mixture of the two for a 28-day period. At the end of this period there was a reduction in plasma testosterone (T) concentrations in male FHM exposed to the mixture, but not in FHM exposed individually to linuron or DEHP or the control FHM. There was also a significant reduction in 17β-estradiol (E2) in the DEHP-only and mixture exposed groups as compared to the control. Contrary to what has been previously published for these two chemicals in mammals, the lower plasma T concentrations in male FHM exposed to the mixture was not a result of the inhibition of genes involved in steroidogenesis; nor due to an increase in the expression of genes associated with peroxisome proliferation. Rather, an increase in relative transcript abundance for CYP3A4 in the liver and androgen- and estrogen-specific SULT2A1 and SULT1st2 in the testes provides evidence that the decrease in plasma T and E2 may be linked to increased steroid catabolism. Feedback from the pituitary is not repressed as the relative expression of follicle stimulating hormone β-subunit mRNA transcript levels in the brain was significantly higher in both DEHP and mixture exposed FHM. In addition, luteinizing hormone β-subunit mRNA transcript levels increased but were not significant in the mixture as compared to the control. Hormone receptor mRNA transcript levels in the liver and testes were not significantly different across all four exposure groups. This study highlights the importance of assessing environmentally relevant concentrations of mixtures when determining risk to aquatic organisms.
- Endocrine disruption
- Fathead minnow