Vitellogenin synthesis in primary cultures of fish liver cells as endpoint for in vitro screening of the (anti)estrogenic activity of chemical substances

Navas, José M; Segner, Helmut (2006). Vitellogenin synthesis in primary cultures of fish liver cells as endpoint for in vitro screening of the (anti)estrogenic activity of chemical substances. Aquatic toxicology, 80(1), pp. 1-22. Amsterdam: Elsevier 10.1016/j.aquatox.2006.07.013

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Concern over possible adverse effects of endocrine-disrupting compounds on fish has caused the development of appropriate testing methods. In vitro screening assays may provide initial information on endocrine activities of a test compound and thereby may direct and optimize subsequent testing. Induction of vitellogenin (VTG) is used as a biomarker of exposure of fish to estrogen-active substances. Since VTG induction can be measured not only in vivo but also in fish hepatocytes in vitro, the use of VTG induction response in isolated fish liver cells has been suggested as in vitro screen for identifying estrogenic-active substances. The main advantages of the hepatocyte VTG assay are considered its ability to detect effects of estrogenic metabolites, since hepatocytes in vitro remain metabolically competent, and its ability to detect both estrogenic and anti-estrogenic effects. In this article, we critically review the current knowledge on the VTG response of cultured fish hepatocytes to (anti)estrogenic substances. In particular, we discuss the sensitivity, specificity, and variability of the VTG hepatocyte assay. In addition, we review the available data on culture factors influencing basal and induced VTG production, the response to natural and synthetic estrogens as well as to xenoestrogens, the detection of indirect estrogens, and the sources of assay variability. The VTG induction in cultured fish hepatocytes is clearly influenced by culture conditions (medium composition, temperature, etc.) and culture system (hepatocyte monolayers, aggregates, liver slices, etc.). The currently available database on estrogen-mediated VTG induction in cultured teleost hepatocytes is too small to support conclusive statements on whether there exist systematic differences of the VTG response between in vitro culture systems, VTG analytical methods or fish species. The VTG hepatocyte assay detects sensitively natural and synthetic estrogens, whereas the response to xenoestrogens appears to be more variable. The detection of weak estrogens can be critical due to the overshadow with cytotoxic concentrations. Moreover, the VTG hepatocyte assay is able to detect antiestrogens as well as indirect estrogens, i.e substances which require metabolic activation to induce an estrogenic response. Nevertheless, more chemicals need to be analysed to corroborate this statement. It will be necessary to establish standardized protocols to minimize assay variability, and to develop a set of pass-fail criteria as well as cut-offs for designating positive and negative responses.

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:

Segner, Helmut


600 Technology > 630 Agriculture








Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:45

Last Modified:

06 Aug 2014 16:17

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URI: (FactScience: 908)

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