Svensson J, Fick J, Brandt I, Brunström B
Environ. Sci. Technol. 47 (4) 2043-2051 [2013-02-19; online 2013-02-01]
The use of progestins has resulted in contamination of aquatic environments and some progestins have in experimental studies been shown to impair reproduction in fish and amphibians at low ng L(-1) concentrations. The mechanisms underlying their reproductive toxicity are largely unknown. Some progestins, such as levonorgestrel (LNG), exert androgenic effects in mammals by activating the androgen receptor (AR). Male three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) kidneys produce spiggin, a gluelike glycoprotein used in nest building, and its production is directly governed by androgens. Spiggin is normally absent in females but its production in female kidneys can be induced by AR agonists. Spiggin serves as the best known biomarker for androgens in fish. We exposed adult female sticklebacks to LNG at 5.5, 40, and 358 ng L(-1) for 21 days. Androgenic effects were found at LNG concentrations ≥40 ng L(-1) including induction of spiggin transcription, kidney hypertrophy, and suppressed liver vitellogenin transcription. These are the first in vivo quantitative data showing that LNG is a potent androgen in fish supporting the contention that androgenic effects of certain progestins contribute to their reproductive toxicity.