Sex-specific immunomodulatory action of the environmentalestrogen 17α-ethynylestradiol alongside with reproductive impairment in fish.

Ye, Roy R; Peterson, Drew R; Kitamura, Shin-Ichi; Segner, Helmut; Seemann, Frauke; Au, Doris W T (2018). Sex-specific immunomodulatory action of the environmentalestrogen 17α-ethynylestradiol alongside with reproductive impairment in fish. Aquatic toxicology, 203, pp. 95-106. Elsevier 10.1016/j.aquatox.2018.07.019

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Estrogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EEDCs) are present ubiquitously in sediments and aquatic ecosystems worldwide. The detrimental impact of EEDCs on the reproduction of wildlife is widely recognized. Increasing evidence shows the immunosuppressive effects of EEDCs in vertebrates. Yet, no studies have considered concomitantly EEDC-induced impacts on reproductive impairment and immune suppression in vivo, which are deemed essential for risk assessment and environmental monitoring. In this study, EE2 was used as a representative EEDC, for parallel evaluation of EEDC-induced immune suppression (immune marker gene expression, leukocyte numbers, host resistance assay, and immune competence index) and reproductive impairment (estrogen responsive gene expression, fecundity, fertilization success, hatching success, and reproductive competence index) in an established fish model (marine medaka Oryzias melastigma), considering sex-specific induction and adaptation and recovery responses under different EE2 exposure scenarios. The findings in marine medaka reveal distinct sex differences in the EE2-mediated biological responses. For female fish, low concentration of exogenous EE2 (33 ng/L) could induce hormesis (immune enhancement), enable adaptation (restored reproduction) and even boost fish resistance to bacterial challenge after abatement of EE2. However, a prolonged exposure to high levels of EE2 (113 ng/L) not only impaired F0 immune function, but also perturbed females recovering from reproductive impairment, resulting in a persistent impact on the F1 generation output. Thus, for female fish, the exposure concentration of EE2 is more critical than the dose of EE2 in determining the impacts of EE2 on immune function and reproduction. Conversely, male fish are far more sensitive than females to the presence of low levels of exogenous EE2 in water and the EE2-mediated biological impacts are clearly dose-dependent. It is also evident in male fish that direct contact of EE2 is essential to sustain impairments of immune competence and reproductive output as well as deregulation of immune function genes in vivo. The immunomodulatory pathways altered by EE2 were deciphered for male and female fish, separately. Downregulation of hepatic tlr3 and c3 (in female) and tlr3, tlr5 and c3 (in male) may be indicative of impaired fish immune competence. Taken together, impaired immune competence in the EE2-exposed fish poses an immediate thread on the survival of F0 population. Impaired reproduction in the EE2-exposed fish can directly affect F1 output. Parallel evaluation of immune competence and reproduction are important considerations when assessing the risk of sublethal levels of EE2/EEDCs in aquatic environments.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP)
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathobiology (DIP) > Center for Fish and Wildlife Health (FIWI)

UniBE Contributor:

Segner, Helmut


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 630 Agriculture








Pamela Schumacher

Date Deposited:

20 May 2019 15:18

Last Modified:

28 Jul 2022 09:44

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Complement system E. tarda EE2 Estrogenic EDCs Immunotoxicity Innate immunity Marine medaka Oryzias melastigma Reproductive impairment Sex-difference Toll-like receptor




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