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Effects of 17 β-estradiol exposure on Xenopus laevis gonadal histopathology



The natural estrogen 17 β-estradiol (E2) is a potential environmental contaminant commonly employed as a positive control substance in bioassays involving estrogenic effects. The aquatic anuran Xenopus laevis is a frequent subject of reproductive endocrine disruptor research; however, histopathological investigations have tended to be less than comprehensive. Consequently, a study was designed to characterize gross and microscopic changes in the gonads of X. laevis as a result of E2 exposure. Additional goals of this study, which consisted of three separate experiments, included the standardization of diagnostic terminology and criteria, the validation of statistical methodology, and the establishment of a half maximal effective concentration (EC50) for E2 as defined by an approximately 50% conversion of presumptive genotypic males to phenotypic females. In the first experiment, frogs were exposed to nominal concentrations of 0, 0.2, 1.5, or 6.0 µg/L E2. From these experimental results and those of a subsequent range finding trial, the EC50 for E2 was determined to be approximately 0.2 µg/L. This E2 concentration was utilized in the other two experiments, which were performed at different facilities to confirm the reproducibility of results. Experiments were conducted according to Good Laboratory Practice guidelines, and the histopathologic evaluations were peer reviewed by an independent pathologist. Among the three trials, the histopathological findings that were strongly associated with E2-exposure (p < 0.001 to 0.0001) included an increase in the proportion of phenotypic females, mixed sex, dilated testis tubules, dividing gonocytes in the testis, and dilated ovarian cavities in phenotypic ovaries. A comparison of the gross and microscopic evaluations suggested that some morphologic changes in the gonads may potentially be missed if studies rely entirely on macroscopic assessment. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1091–1105. © 2010 SETAC