Long-term exposure to low 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) concentrations disrupts both the reproductive and the immune system of juvenile rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss

Rehberger, Kristina; Wernicke von Siebenthal, Elena; Bailey, Christyn; Bregy, Patrick; Fasel, Melanie; Herzog, Elio L.; Neumann, Silvia; Schmidt-Posthaus, Heike; Segner, Helmut (2020). Long-term exposure to low 17α-ethinylestradiol (EE2) concentrations disrupts both the reproductive and the immune system of juvenile rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Environment International, 142, p. 105836. Elsevier 10.1016/j.envint.2020.105836

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Estrogenic endocrine disrupting compounds (EEDCs), such as ethinylestradiol (EE2), are well studied for their impact on the reproductive system of fish. EEDCs may also impact the immune system and, as a consequence, the disease susceptibility of fish. It is currently not yet known whether the low concentrations of EEDCs that are able to disrupt the reproductive system of trout are effective in disrupting the immune system and the fish host resistance towards pathogens, too, or whether such immunodisruptive effects would occur only at higher EEDC concentrations. Therefore, in the present study we compare the effect thresholds of low 17α-ethinylestradiol concentrations (1.5 and 5.5 EE2 ng/L) on the reproductive system, the immune system, the energy expenditures and the resistance of juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) against the parasite Tetracapsuloides bryosalmonae – the etiological agent of proliferative kidney disease (PKD) of salmonids. The parasite infection was conducted without injection and under low pathogen exposure concentrations. The disease development was followed over 130 days post infection – in the presence or absence of EE2 exposure. The results show that the long-term EE2 exposure affected, at both concentrations, reproductive parameters like the mRNA levels of hepatic vitellogenin and estrogen receptors. At the same concentrations, EE2 exposure modulated the immune parameters: mRNA levels of several immune genes were altered and the parasite intensity as well as the disease severity (histopathology) were significantly reduced in EE2-exposed fish compared to infected control fish. The combination of EE2 exposure and parasite infection was energetically costly, as indicated by the decreased values of the swim tunnel respirometry. Although further substantiation is needed, our findings suggest that EE2 exerts endocrine disruptive and immunomodulating activities at comparable effect thresholds, since reproductive and immune parameters were affected by the same, low EE2 concentrations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


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

UniBE Contributor:

Rehberger, Kristina, Wernicke von Siebenthal, Elena, Bailey, Christyn John, Fasel, Melanie, Herzog, Elio Luca, Schmidt-Posthaus, Heike, Segner, Helmut


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture






[UNSPECIFIED] EU project SOLUTIONS ; [UNSPECIFIED] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds




Kristina Rehberger

Date Deposited:

23 Jun 2020 09:11

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:39

Publisher DOI:


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