Intersex occurrence in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) male fry chronically exposed to ethynylestradiol

Sophie Depiereux, Mélanie Liagre, Lorraine Danis, Bertrand De Meulder, Eric Depiereux, Helmut Segner, Patrick Kestemont

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This study aimed to investigate the male-to-female morphological and physiological transdifferentiation process in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exposed to exogenous estrogens. The first objective was to elucidate whether trout develop intersex gonads under exposure to low levels of estrogen. To this end, the gonads of an all-male population of fry exposed chronically (from 60 to 136 days post fertilization - dpf) to several doses (from environmentally relevant 0.01 μg/L to supraenvironmental levels: 0.1, 1 and 10 μg/L) of the potent synthetic estrogen ethynylestradiol (EE2) were examined histologically. The morphological evaluations were underpinned by the analysis of gonad steroid (testosterone, estradiol and 11-ketotestosterone) levels and of brain and gonad gene expression, including estrogen-responsive genes and genes involved in sex differentiation in (gonads: cyp19a1a, ER isoforms, vtg, dmrt1, sox9a2; sdY; cyp11b; brain: cyp19a1b, ER isoforms). Intersex gonads were observed from the first concentration used (0.01 μg EE2/L) and sexual inversion could be detected from 0.1 mg EE2/L. This was accompanied by a linear decrease in 11-KT levels, whereas no effect on E2 and T levels was observed. Q-PCR results from the gonads showed downregulation of testicular markers (dmrt1, sox9a2; sdY; cyp11b) with increasing EE2 exposure concentrations, and upregulation of the female vtg gene. No evidence was found for a direct involvement of aromatase in the sex conversion process. The results from this study provide evidence that gonads of male trout respond to estrogen exposure by intersex formation and, with increasing concentration, by morphological and physiological conversion to phenotypic ovaries. However, supra-environmental estrogen concentrations are needed to induce these changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98531
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2014


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