Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 44, Issue 6, pp 1561–1576 | Cite as

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals in aquatic environment: what are the risks for fish gametes?

  • Oliana CarnevaliEmail author
  • Stefania Santangeli
  • Isabel Forner-Piquer
  • Danilo Basili
  • Francesca MaradonnaEmail author


Over the past 25 years, extensive research in vertebrate species has identified several genomic pathways altered by exposures to anthropogenic chemicals with hormone-like activity mediated by their interaction with nuclear receptors. In addition, many pollutants have been shown to interfere with non-genomic (non-classical) pathways, but this mechanism of endocrine disruption is still poorly understood. Recently, the number of publications describing the effects of Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on fish reproduction, focusing on the deregulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis as well as on gamete quality, significantly increased. Depending on their ability to mimic endogenous hormones, the may differently affect male or female reproductive physiology. Inhibition of gametogenesis, development of intersex gonads, alteration of the gonadosomatic index, and decreased fertility rate have been largely documented. In males, alterations of sperm density, motility, and fertility have been observed in several wild species. Similar detrimental effects were described in females, including negative outcomes on oocyte growth and maturation plus the occurrence of apoptotic/autophagic processes. These pathways may affect gamete viability considered as one of the major indicators of reproductive endocrine disruption. Pollutants act also at DNA level producing DNA mutations and changes in epigenetic pathways inducing specific mechanisms of toxicity and/or aberrant cellular responses that may affect subsequent generation(s) through the germline. In conclusion, this review summarizes the effects caused by EDC exposure on fish reproduction, focusing on gametogenesis, giving a general overview of the different aspects dealing with this issue, from morphological alteration, deregulation of steroidogenesis, hormonal synthesis, and occurrence of epigenetic process.


Ovary Testis Environmental pollution Sex reversal Epigenetic 


Funding information

Supported by the Ministry of Health—RICERCA FINALIZZATA 2009 “Food and environmental safety: the problem of the endocrine disruptors” to OC and AM; 2012 2015 COST European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research “AQUAGAMETE” to OC and by Progetti di Rilevante Interesse Nazionale (PRIN) 2010–2011 prot 2010W87LBJ to OC.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell’AmbienteUniversità Politecnica delle MarcheAnconaItaly
  2. 2.INBB Consorzio Interuniversitario di Biostrutture e BiosistemiRomeItaly

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