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Measurement of vitellogenin, a biomarker for exposure to oestrogenic chemicals, in a wide variety of cyprinid fish

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There is increasing concern about man-made chemicals in the aquatic environment that mimic oestrogens because they may disrupt reproductive function. Vitellogenin, a precursor of egg-yolk in fish and other oviparous animals, may be used as a biomarker for “oestrogen” exposure. This study investigated the use of a radioimmunoassay developed to carp (Cyprinus carpio) vitellogenin to measure vitellogenin in other species of fish, especially cyprinids that would be of value for field and laboratory studies on oestrogenic xenobiotics. Of the nine families of fish studied, only vitellogenin from cyprinids (to which the carp belongs) showed good cross-reactivity in the carp vitellogenin radioimmunoassay. Vitellogenin from cyprinids native to Europe that cross reacted in the carp vitellogenin radioimmunoassay included: bream (Abramis brama), roach (Rutilus rutilus), rudd (Scardinius erythropthalmus), gudgeon (Gobio gobio) and minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Vitellogenin from cyprinids used widely in ecotoxicology that cross reacted in the carp vitellogenin radioimmunoassay included: fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), zebrafish (Brachydanio rerio) and goldfish (Carassius auratus). In the cyprinids studies, the concentrations of vitellogenin in mature females were between a few hundred and a thousand microgram per millilitre. Concentrations of plasma vitellogenin in immature females were always greater than 200 ng·m-1, whereas in males (with the exception of the fathead minnow) plasma vitellogenin concentrations were less than 20 ng·ml-1 (and generally, much lower). The results suggest that the structure of vitellogenin is highly conserved within the cyprinid family and that the carp vitellogenin radioimmunoassay may be used to measure the concentrations of vitellogenin in plasma from a wide variety of cyprinids.

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PCBs :

polychlorinated biphenyls

PAHs :

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

c-VTG :

carp vitellogenin


gonadosomatic index


enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay





STWs :

sewage treatment works


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Correspondence to C. R. Tyler.

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Communicated by H. Huddart

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Tyler, C.R., van der Eerden, B., Jobling, S. et al. Measurement of vitellogenin, a biomarker for exposure to oestrogenic chemicals, in a wide variety of cyprinid fish. J Comp Physiol B 166, 418–426 (1996).

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