Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 377–384 | Cite as

Effects of the estrogen mimic genistein as a dietary component on sex differentiation and ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity in channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

  • C. C. Green
  • A. M. Kelly


A number of aquaculture species, including channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, are fed high proportions of soybean meal in their diet. We have investigated the potential for the most common phytoestrogen in soybean meal to alter phenotypic sex during sexual differentiation in channel catfish. Channel catfish were fed four dietary concentrations of the phytoestrogen genistein (0, 2, 4, and 8 mg g−1) to determine its effect on gonadal sex differentiation. The four treatment diets were fed to sexually undifferentiated channel catfish between 5 and 140 days post hatch (dph) and between 60 and 150 dph. Phenotypic sex was determined by histological examination of the gonads. Ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase activity was not significantly different among the treatment and control groups. Phenotypic sex was significantly dependant on dietary phytoestrogen concentration (P = 0.01). Additionally, logistic regression showed a significant relation between genistein concentration in the diet and gonadal sex (P = 0.02). Intersex individuals were present at all treatment concentrations, with increasing proportions of intersex fish as the genistein concentration increased for individuals fed treated diets between 5 and 140 dph. Increased proportions of phenotypically male individuals resulted from chronic dietary exposure to the estrogen mimic genistein. There were no significant differences in the proportions of males and females between feed treatment durations. These findings establish that dietary concentrations of genistein can alter sex ratios in cultured channel catfish populations and demonstrates the need to further understand the actions of this and other prominent phytoestrogens in aquaculture species.


Aromatase Endocrine disruption Intersex Phytoestrogens Soybean meal 



This article is based, in part, upon research conducted by the senior author for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Department of Zoology, Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, Illinois. Funding was provided by grant #2-02149 from The Office of Research and Development Administration at Southern Illinois University Carbondale with additional funding provided by the Department of Zoology and the Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture CenterSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  2. 2.Aquaculture Research StationLouisiana State University Agricultural CenterBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.Cooperative Extension Program, Aquaculture and Fisheries CenterUniversity of Arkansas at Pine BluffLonokeUSA

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