Effects of chronic polybrominated diphenyl ether exposure on gonadal development in the northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens



Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are bioaccumulative, persistent organic pollutants used as flame retardants in consumer goods. Concentrations of PBDEs in North American wildlife have been increasing for decades and been shown to have estrogenic effects on sexual development. No studies, however, have examined the effects of PBDEs on the sexual development of North American frogs at ecologically relevant concentrations. This study examined the effects of five dietary concentrations of DE-71 (0, 1.1, 6.1, 71.4, and 634 ng ΣPBDEs/g diet), a technical PBDE mixture, on the gonadal development of the northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens. Tadpoles were exposed chronically from the time they became free-swimming until metamorphosis. Frogs were killed either at metamorphic climax or 10 weeks after completing metamorphosis, processed for histology, and examined for alterations in sexual development. The experimental group exposed to PBDEs at 1.1 ng/g had a significantly larger proportion of females compared with the expected 50:50 sex ratio. At 10 weeks post-metamorphosis, male frogs exposed to 6.1 and 71.4 ng/g had significantly smaller testes, but all other measure of gonadal development tested showed no effects. No intersex or increased incidence of gonadal abnormality were detected. These findings indicate that PBDEs may disrupt sexual differentiation in frogs at low, environmentally relevant concentrations. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:347–354. © 2011 SETAC