Fish Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 17, Issue 1–6, pp 25–31 | Cite as

Environmental control of fish reproduction: a different perspective

  • J.P. Sumpter


Nearly all studies on the environmental control of fish reproduction have, to date, focused on the roles played by various parameters of the natural environment, such as changes in water temperature and photoperiod. While these factors undoubtedly still play significant roles, other factors, which have arisen as a consequence of man's activities, also play major roles in at least some aquatic environments. One such factor is pollution; whereas attention is usually focused primarily on severe pollution and the fish mortality that can result, recently some emphasis has been given to the more subtle, but potentially serious, consequences of less severe pollution. Many freshwater habitats, particularly rivers in urban areas, now receive substantial volumes of effluent from various sources (both industrial and domestic). This effluent can contain chemicals capable of mimicking endogenous hormones, and hence has the potential to disrupt endocrine-mediated processes such as reproduction. This paper is concerned with the identity of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, their mechanisms of action, and the effects they have on reproduction, both in wild fish and in fish maintained in the laboratory.

endocrine disruption hormone mimic vitellogenin bioconcentration 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References cited

  1. Aherne, G.W. and Briggs, R.J. 1989. The relevance of the presence of certain synthetic steroids in the aquatic environment. J. Pharm. Pharmacol. 41: 735–736.Google Scholar
  2. Ashfield, L.A., Pottinger, T.G. and Sumpter, J.P. 1997. Exposure of juvenile trout to alkylphenolic compounds results in modification to growth rate. Envir. Toxicol. (In press).Google Scholar
  3. Bortone, S.A. and Davis, W.P. 1994. Fish intersexuality as indicator of environmental stress. Bioscience 44: 165–172.Google Scholar
  4. Bortone, S.A. and Drysdale, D.T. 1981. Additional evidence for environmentally-induced intersexuality in Poeciliid fishes. Assoc. Southeastern Biologists Bull. 28: 67.Google Scholar
  5. Bortone, S.A., Davis, W.P. and Bundrick, C.M. 1989. Morphological and behavioural characters in mosquitofish as potential bioindication of exposure to kraft mill effluent. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 43: 370–377.Google Scholar
  6. Colborn, T. and Clement, C. (eds.) 1993. Chemically Induced Alterations in Sexual and Functional Development: The Wildlife/ Human Connection. Princeton Scientific Publishing, Princeton.Google Scholar
  7. Dodd, J.M. and Sumpter, J.P. 1984. Reproductive cycles in cyclostomes, elasmobranchs and bony fishes. In Marshall's Physiology of Reproduction. 4th Edition. Vol. A, pp. 1–126. Edited by G.E. Lamming. Churchill Livingstone, London.Google Scholar
  8. Drysdale, D.T. and Bortone, S.A. 1989. Laboratory induction of inter-sexuality in the mosquitofish Gambusia affinis, using paper mill effluent. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 43: 611–617.Google Scholar
  9. Harries, J.E., Sheahan, D.A., Jobling, S., Matthiessen, P., Neall, P., Routledge, E., Rycroft, R., Sumpter, J.P. and Tyler, T. 1996. A survey of estrogenic activity in U.K. inland water. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 15: 1993–2002.Google Scholar
  10. Harries, J.E., Sheahan, D.A., Jobling, S., Matthiesen, P., Neall, P., Sumpter, J.P., Tyler, T. and Zaman, N. 1996. Estrogenic activity in five United Kingdom rivers detected by measurement of vitellogenesis in caged male trout. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 16: 534–542.Google Scholar
  11. Horrell, W.M. and Denton, T.E. 1989. Gonopodial morphogenesis in female mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis affinis, masculinized by exposure to degradation products from plant sterols. Environ. Biol. Fish. 24: 43–51.Google Scholar
  12. Horrell, W.M., Black, D.A. and Bortone, S.A. 1980. Abnormal expression of secondary sex characters in a population of mosquitofish Gambusia affinis holbrooki: evidence for environmentally-induced masculinization. Copeia, 1980: 676–681.Google Scholar
  13. Jobling, S. and Sumpter, J.P. 1993. Detergent components in sewage effluent are weakly oestrogenic to fish: an in vitro study using rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) hepatocytes. Aquat. Toxicol. 27: 361–372.Google Scholar
  14. Jobling, S., Reynolds, T., White, R., Parker, M.G. and Sumpter, J.P. 1995. A variety of environmentally persistent chemicals, including some phthalate plasticizers, are weakly oestrogenic. Environ. Health Persp. 103: 582–587.Google Scholar
  15. Jobling, S., Sheahan, D., Osborne, J.A., Matthiessen, P. and Sumpter, J.P. 1996. Inhibition of testicular growth in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exposed to estrogenic alkylphenolic chemicals. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 15: 194–202.Google Scholar
  16. Kelce, W.R., Stone, C.R., Laws, S.G., Gray, L.E., Kemppainen, J.A. and Wilson, E.M. 1995. Persistent DDT metabolite p,p1-DDE is a potent androgen receptor antagonist. Nature, Lond. 375: 581–585.Google Scholar
  17. Le Bail, P.Y. 1988. Growth-reproduction interaction in salmonids. In Reproduction in Fish, Basic and Applied Aspects in Endocrinology and Genetics. pp. 91–108. Edited by Y. Zohar and B. Breton. INRA, Paris Les Colloques de l'INRA, No. 44.Google Scholar
  18. Lye, C.M., Frid, C.L.J., Gill, M.E. and McCormick, D. 1997. Abnormalities in the reproductive health of flounder Platichthys flesus, exposed to effluent from a sewage treatment works. Mar. Poll. Bull. 34: 34–41.Google Scholar
  19. MacLatchy, D.L. and Van Der Kraak, G.J. 1995. The phytoestrogen ß-sitosterol alters the reproductive endocrine status of goldfish. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 134: 305–312.Google Scholar
  20. McMaster, M.E., Van Der Kraak, G.J., Portt, C.B., Munnkittrick, K.R., Sibley, P.K., Smith, I.R. and Dixon, D.G. 1991. Changes in hepatic mixed-function oxygenase (MFO) activity, plasma steroid levels and age at maturity of a white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) population exposed to bleached kraft pulp mill effluent. Aquat. Toxicol. 21: 199–218.Google Scholar
  21. Mellanen, P., Petänen, T., Lehtimake, J., Makela, S., Bylund, G., Holmborn, B., Mannila, E., Oikari, A. and Sanlti, R. 1996. Wood-derived estrogens: studies in vitro with breast cancer cell lines and in vivo in trout. Toxicol. Appl. Pharm. 136: 391-388.Google Scholar
  22. Munro, A.D., Scott, A.P. and Lam, T.J. (eds.) 1990. Reproductive Seasonality in Teleosts: Environmental Influences. CRC Press, Boca Raton.Google Scholar
  23. Piferrer, F. and Donaldson, E.M. 1989. Gonadal differentiation on coho salmon, (Oncorhynchus kisutch), after a single treatment with androgen or estrogen at different stages during ontogenesis. Aquaculture 77: 251–262.Google Scholar
  24. Purdom, C.E., Hardiman, P.A., Bye, V.J., Eno, N.C., Tyler, C.R. and Sumpter, J.P. 1994. Estrogenic effects of effluents from sewage-treatment works. Chem. Ecol. 8: 275–285.Google Scholar
  25. Shore, L.S. 1993. Estrogen as an environmental pollutant. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 51: 361–366.Google Scholar
  26. Soto, A.M., Chung, K.L. and Sonnenschein, C. 1994. The pesti-cides endosulfan, toxaphene and dieldrin have estrogen effects on human estrogen-sensitive cells. Environ. Health Perspect. 102: 380–383.Google Scholar
  27. Soto, A.M., Sonnenschein, C., Chung, K.L., Fernandez, M.F., Olea, N. and Oleao-Serrano, F. 1995. The E-SCREEN assay as a tool to identify estrogens: an update on estrogenic environmental pollutants. Environ. Health Perspect. 103: Suppl. 7, 113–122.Google Scholar
  28. Sumpter, J.P. and Jobling, S. 1995. Vitellogenesis as a biomarker of oestrogenic contamination of the aquatic environment. Environ. Health Persp. 103: Suppl. 7, 173–178.Google Scholar
  29. Sumpter, J.P., Jobling, S. and Tyler, C.R. 1996. Oestrogenic substances in the aquatic environment and their potential impact on animals, particularly fish. In Toxicology of Aquatic Pollution: Physiological, Molecular and Cellular Approaches. pp. 205–224. Edited by E.W. Taylor. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  30. Van Der Kraak, G.J., Munnkittrick, K.R., McMaster, M.E., Portt, C.B. and Chang, J.P. 1992. Exposure to bleached kraft pulp mill effluent disrupts the pituitary-gonadal axis of white sucker at multiple sites. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 115: 224–233.Google Scholar
  31. White, R., Jobling, S., Hoare, S.A., Sumpter, J.P. and Parker, M.G. 1994. Environmentally persistent alkylphenolic compounds are estrogenic. Endocrinology 135: 175–182.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • J.P. Sumpter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology and BiochemistryBrunel UniversityUxbridge, MiddlesexUK

Personalised recommendations