Reversibility of endocrine disruption in zebrafish (Danio rerio) after discontinued exposure to the estrogen 17α-ethinylestradiol

Lisa Baumann, Susanne Knörr, Susanne Keiter, Kristina Rehberger, Sina Volz, Viktoria Schiller, Martina Fenske, Henrik Holbech, Helmut Segner, Thomas Braunbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The aim of the present study was to investigate the persistence of the feminizing effects of discontinued 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) exposure on zebrafish (Danio rerio). An exposure scenario covering the sensitive phase of sexual differentiation, as well as final gonad maturation was chosen to examine the estrogenic effects on sexual development of zebrafish. Two exposure scenarioswere compared: continuous exposure to environmentally relevant
concentrations (0.1–10 ng/L EE2) up to 100 days post-hatch (dph) and developmental exposure up to 60 dph, followed by 40 days of depuration in clean water. The persistence of effects was investigated at different biological organization levels from mRNA to population-relevant endpoints to cover a broad range of important parameters. EE2 had a strong feminizing and inhibiting effect on the sexual development of zebrafish. Brain aromatase (cyp19b)mRNA expression showed no clear response, but vitellogenin levelswere significantly elevated, gonadmaturation and body growth were inhibited in both genders, and sex ratioswere skewed towards females and undifferentiated individuals. To a large extent, all of these effects were reversed after 40 days of recovery, leading to the conclusion that exposure to the estrogen EE2 results in very strong, but reversible underdevelopment and feminization of zebrafish. The present study is the first to show this reversibility at different levels of organization, which gives better insight into the mechanistic basis of estrogenic effects in zebrafish.
Original languageEnglish
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)230-237
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 15. Aug 2014


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