, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 1440–1451 | Cite as

Exposure to 17α-ethynylestradiol causes dose and temporally dependent changes in intersex, females and vitellogenin production in the Sydney rock oyster

  • M. N. Andrew
  • W. A. O’Connor
  • R. H. Dunstan
  • G. R. MacFarlane


Although mounting evidence suggests exposure to estrogenic contaminants increases vitellogenin production in molluscs, demonstration of dose–response relationships and knowledge of the temporal nature of the vitellogenin response with continual exposure is currently lacking for biomarker utility. To address this knowledge gap, adult Sydney rock oysters, Saccostrea glomerata, were exposed to a range of environmentally relevant concentrations of 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2) (0, 6.25, 12.5, 25 or 50 ng/l) in seawater under laboratory conditions. Vitellogenin induction and gonadal development was assessed following 4, 21 and 49 days exposure to EE2. Vitellogenin was found to increase in a dose dependent manner with EE2 exposure for females (4 and 49 days) and males (4 and 21 days). Histological examination of gonads revealed a number of individuals exhibited intersex (ovotestis) in 50 ng/l EE2 (after 21 days) and in 6.25 and 12.5 ng/l EE2 (after 49 days). Furthermore, a significant shift towards females was observed following 49 days exposure at 50 ng/l EE2 suggesting estrogenic exposure is capable of facilitating a progression for protandric males from male-intersex-female gametal status. Increases in female vitellogenin (4 days) were predictive of later increases in female developmental stages at 21 days and increases in oocyte area following 49 days. Male vitellogenin (4 days) was predictive of decreased male percentages and lower male developmental stages at 49 days. Vitellogenin in S. glomerata is a predictive biomarker of estrogenic exposure and effect if sampled soon after exposure and at the commencement of a gonadal development cycle.


Biomarker Estrogens 17α-ethynylestradiol Intersex Oyster Vitellogenin 



We would like to acknowledge funding sources including the Australian Research Council, Hunter Water, Port Stephens Council and New South Wales Industry & Investment. Also, thanks are extended to New South Wales Industry & Investment (Oyster Hatchery, Taylors Beach) for their assistance in establishing and maintaining the laboratory trial, in particular Ben Finn, Michael Dove, Kyle Johnston, Steve O’Connor and Lynne Foulkes for maintaining the aquaria, algae stock and assisting with sample preparations. Thank you to Tony Rothkirch from the University of Newcastle for his assistance with HPLC operation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. N. Andrew
    • 1
  • W. A. O’Connor
    • 2
  • R. H. Dunstan
    • 1
  • G. R. MacFarlane
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Environmental and Life SciencesThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.New South Wales Industry & InvestmentPort Stephens Research InstituteTaylors BeachAustralia

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