Developmental toxicity of estrogenic alkylphenols in killifish (Fundulus Heteroclitus)
Estrogenic alkylphenols have been identified in the aquatic environment, and concern has arisen over the ability of these compounds to interact with and potentially disrupt vertebrate endocrine systems. Here we report that waterborne nonylphenol (NP) and 4-tert-octylphenol (4-t-OP) are toxic to the embryos and larvae of Fundulus heteroclitus, an estuarine teleost, causing both lethal and sublethal developmental abnormalities. Hatch success in surviving embryos is also adversely affected by alkylphenol exposure. Correlation analysis has indicated that decreased hatch success is strongly correlated to deformities in the torso/abdomen and tail of embryos. Larval exposure to the alkylphenols demonstrates that NP and 4-t-OP are lethal at concentrations an order of magnitude less than those lethal to embryos (NP larval 96-h LC50 = 0.95 μM [204 μg/L]; NP embryo 96-h LC50 = 24 μM [5 mg/L]). In evaluating the role of estrogenicity in developmental toxicity of the alkylphenols, we have found that tamoxifen, an estrogen receptor antagonist, can prevent embryo-lethality for NP and 4-t-OP. While these embryos survive, some sublethal abnormalities are still evident, particularly in the torso and tail. The results of these studies suggest that the alkylphenols have the potential to cause developmental toxicity in aquatic organisms and that this may occur through disruption of estrogen-based signals.
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