Sexual disruption is reported in wild fish populations living in freshwaters receiving discharges of wastewater treatment works (WwTW) effluents and is associated primarily with the feminisation of males by exposure to oestrogenic chemicals. Antiandrogens could also contribute to the feminisation of male fish, but there are far less data supporting this hypothesis and almost nothing is known for the effects of oestrogens in combination with antiandrogens in fish. We conducted a series of in vivo exposures in two fish species to investigate the potency on reproductive-relevant endpoints of the antiandrogenic antimicrobials triclosan (TCS), chlorophene (CP) and dichlorophene (DCP) and the resin, abietic acid (AbA), all found widely in WwTW effluents. We also undertook exposures with a mixture of antiandrogens and a mixture of antiandrogens in combination with the oestrogen 17α-ethinyloestradiol (EE2). In stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), DCP showed a tendency to reduce spiggin induction in females androgenised by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), but these findings were not conclusive. In roach (Rutilus rutilus), exposures to DCP (178 days), or a mixture of TCS, CP and AbA (185 days), or to the model antiandrogen flutamide (FL, 178 days) had no effect on gonadal sex ratio or on the development of the reproductive ducts. Exposure to EE2 (1.5. ng/L, 185 days) induced feminisation of the ducts in 17% of the males and in the mixture of antiandrogens (TCS, CP, AbA) in combination with EE2, almost all (96%) of the males had a feminised reproductive ducts. In stickleback androgen receptor (ARα and ARβ) transactivation assays, the model antiandrogens, FL and procymidone inhibited 11-ketotestosterone (11-KT) induced receptor activation, but none of the human antiandrogens, TCS, CP, DCP and AbA had an effect. These data indicate that antimicrobial antiandrogens in combination can contribute to the feminisation process in exposed males, but they do not appear to act through the androgen receptor in fish.
- Endocrine disruption