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Research article2006Peer reviewed

Steroid biosynthetic enzyme activities in leachate-exposed female perch (Perca fluviatilis) as biomarkers for endocrine disruption

Linderoth M, Nonnan A, Noaksson E, Zebuhr Y, Norrgren L, Balk L


Studies have shown that adult female perch in a freshwater lake, Molnbyggen, Sweden, have a reproductive disorder caused by unidentified endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) leaching from a local refuse dump. The adverse effects include shallow open sores, low ratio of sexually mature individuals, low gonadosomatic index and low circulating levels of androgens. We hypothesised that the low androgen levels could be a result of impaired production and/or stimulated excretion of androgens by EDCs. From October 2000 to November 2001, at time-points important in the perch reproductive cycle, adult female perch were collected in Molnbyggen and in the reference lake, Djursjon. The activities of three key enzymes in androgen biosynthesis: 17 alpha-hydroxylase (17OHlase), 17,20-lyase (lyasc) and 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17 beta HSD) were determined in head kidney or ovary. The relationship between enzyme activities and plasma steroid concentrations was examined. Ovarian histopathology and the determination of brain aromatase activity were also included in the study. Similar 17 beta Hlase, 17 beta HSD and aromatase activities were found in Molnbyggen females and reference fish throughout the year. Head kidney 170Hlase showed a positive correlation to cortisol levels (r=0.754; p < 0.001) but not to androgen levels. Molnbyggen females exhibited lower ovarian lyase activity during vitellogenesis than reference fish. Atretic oocytes were on most occasions more frequent in sexually immature than in sexually mature females. The results suggest that neither 170Hlase, 17 beta HSD nor aromatase is the target for EDCs disrupting the androgen homeostasis of exposed female perch. Further investigation is needed to establish the role of decreased ovarian lyase activity in endocrine homeostasis, but the possibility of increased excretion of androgens should also be examined. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


Reproductive failure; aromatase; 17; 20-lyase; 17 alfa-hydroxylase; 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenease; refuse dump leachate

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2006, Volume: 366, number: 2-3, pages: 638-648