Use of chemical mixtures to differentiate mechanisms of endocrine action in a small fish model

Gerald T Ankley, Kathleen M Jensen, Michael D Kahl, Elizabeth J Durhan, Elizabeth A Makynen, Jenna E Cavallin, Dalma Martinović, Leah C Wehmas, Nathaniel D Mueller, Daniel L Villeneuve
Aquatic Toxicology 2010 September 1, 99 (3): 389-96
Various assays with adult fish have been developed to identify potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which may cause toxicity via alterations in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. These assays can be sensitive and highly diagnostic for key mechanisms such as agonism of the estrogen and androgen receptors (ERs, ARs) and inhibition of steroid synthesis. However, most of the tests do not unambiguously identify AR antagonists. The purpose of this work was to explore the utility of a mixture test design with the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) for detecting different classes of EDCs including AR antagonists. Adults of both sexes were exposed via the water to EDCs with diverse mechanisms of action in the absence or presence of 17beta-trenbolone (TB), a potent AR agonist which masculinizes female fathead minnows. Similar to previous studies with the model AR antagonists flutamide and vinclozolin, exposure of females to the AR antagonist cyproterone acetate in the presence of TB decreased expression of an easily-observed masculinization response, nuptial tubercle formation. Mixture studies with TB and the model ER agonists, 17alpha-ethinylestradiol and bisphenol A, also showed inhibition of tubercle formation in the females, but unlike the AR antagonists, the estrogens markedly induced synthesis of vitellogenin (VTG: egg yolk protein), particularly in males. The ER agonists also offset TB-induced depressions in plasma VTG concentrations in female fish. Additional mixture experiments were conducted with TB and triclocarban, an anti-microbial reported to enhance AR-mediated responses, or ammonia, a "negative control" with no known direct effects on HPG function. Neither chemical affected VTG status in males or females in the absence or presence of TB; however, both slightly enhanced TB-induced tubercle formation in females. Based on studies described herein and elsewhere with the fathead minnow, a TB co-exposure assay appears to be an effective approach for clearly identifying AR antagonists as well as potential EDCs with other relevant mechanisms of action.

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