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Effects of early life stage exposure of largemouth bass to atrazine or a model estrogen (17α-ethinylestradiol)

October 2, 2020

Endocrine disrupting contaminants are of continuing concern for potentially contributing to reproductive dysfunction in largemouth and smallmouth bass in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (CBW) and elsewhere. Exposures to atrazine (ATR) have been hypothesized to have estrogenic effects on vertebrate endocrine systems. The incidence of intersex in male smallmouth bass from some regions of CBW has been correlated with ATR concentrations in water. Fish early life stages may be particularly vulnerable to ATR exposure in agricultural areas, as a spring influx of pesticides coincides with spawning and early development. Our objectives were to investigate the effects of early life stage exposure to ATR or the model estrogen 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) on sexual differentiation and gene expression in gonad tissue. We exposed newly hatched largemouth bass (LMB, Micropterus salmoides) from 7 to 80 days post-spawn to nominal concentrations of 1, 10, or 100 µg ATR/L or 1 or 10 ng EE2/L and monitored histological development and transcriptomic changes in gonad tissue. We observed a nearly 100% female sex ratio in LMB exposed to EE2 at 10 ng/L, presumably due to sex reversal of males. Many gonad genes were differentially expressed between sexes. Multidimensional scaling revealed clustering by gene expression of the 1 ng EE2/L and 100 µg ATR/L-treated male fish. Some pathways responsive to EE2 exposure were not sex-specific. We observed differential expression in male gonad in LMB exposed to EE2 at 1 ng/L of several genes involved in reproductive development and function, including star, cyp11a2, ddx4 (previously vasa), wnt5b, cyp1a and samhd1. Expression of star, cyp11a2 and cyp1a in males was also responsive to ATR exposure. Overall, our results confirm that early development is a sensitive window for estrogenic endocrine disruption in LMB and are consistent with the hypothesis that ATR exposure induces some estrogenic responses in the developing gonad. However, ATR-specific and EE2-specific responses were also observed.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Effects of early life stage exposure of largemouth bass to atrazine or a model estrogen (17α-ethinylestradiol)
DOI 10.7717/peerj.9614
Authors Jessica Kristin Leet, Catherine A. Richter, Robert S. Cornman, Jason P. Berninger, Ramji K. Bhandari, Diane K. Nicks, James L. Zajicek, Vicki S. Blazer, Donald E. Tillitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PeerJ
Series Number
Index ID 70215008
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center