Androgenic effects of a Canadian bleached kraft pulp and paper effluent as assessed using threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

C A Wartman, N S Hogan, L M Hewitt, M E McMaster, M J Landman, S Taylor, T G Kovacs, M R van den Heuvel
Aquatic Toxicology 2009 May 5, 92 (3): 131-9
The presence of unidentified estrogens and androgens in effluents from pulp and paper mills is well documented. However, their role in effluent effects on fish reproduction remains unclear. The objective of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that reproductive impacts of a modern pulp mill effluent are mediated by androgens and/or estrogens in the effluent. Male and female threespine stickleback were exposed to biologically treated Canadian bleached kraft mill effluent under flow-through conditions in the laboratory at 0, 1, 10 and 100% (v/v) dilutions. After 7 and 21 d of exposure, steroidogenesis was assessed using in vitro incubations of gonadal tissue in both males and females. mRNA expression of the estrogen-regulated gene vitellogenin, and the androgen-responsive gene spiggin were assessed using quantitative RT-PCR in the livers of male and posterior kidneys of female stickleback, respectively. Hepatic 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity was assessed in both sexes. Effluent extracts were examined for estrogenic and androgenic bioactivity using receptor binding bioassays, and were screened for pulp and paper related extractives and steroidal androgens using GC-MS. This effluent up-regulated spiggin mRNA in the kidney of female stickleback at 10% and 100% (v/v) effluent at 21 d, but not at 7 d of exposure. This change at the mRNA expression of the gene was associated with an increase in cell height in kidney proximal tubule epithelial cells at 100% effluent after both 7 and 21 d. Liver vitellogenin mRNA in male stickleback was not induced at either 7 or 21 d. EROD was induced at 10 and 100% after 21 d of exposure in both sexes, but not after 7 d of exposure. Despite evidence of exposure to androgens, there was no reduction in steroidogenic capacity at any effluent dilution. Effluent extracts were capable of eliciting the displacement of androgens and estrogens from receptors, but androgenic potency was 4-fold greater. A screen of more than 30 androgenic androstane steroids showed no detections. Hence, the androgenic constituents in this particular effluent remain unknown.

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