Effects of progesterone on reproduction and embryonic development in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas)



High concentrations (375 ng/L) of the steroid hormone progesterone (P4) were measured in snowmelt runoff associated with large livestock-feeding operations in Wisconsin. To gain insight into the potential endocrine-disrupting effects of P4 in fish, experiments were conducted to evaluate the effects of short-term exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of P4 on reproduction and embryonic development in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). For the reproduction assay, groups of reproductively mature fish were exposed for 21 d to nominal concentrations of 0, 10, 100, and 1,000 ng/L P4 in a flow-through system, and various key reproductive endpoints (e.g., egg number, fertilization success) were quantified throughout the exposure period. The embryonic development assay consisted of incubating fathead minnow eggs in static culture to quantify the effects of P4 on early development and hatching success. Progesterone caused dose-dependent decreases in fecundity and fertility and significantly reduced gonadosomatic index and vitellogenin gene expression in females. There were no effects of P4 on early embryonic development or hatching success. Progesterone may be a significant endocrine-disrupting chemical in fish. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2012;31:851–856. © 2012 SETAC