• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs);
  • Reproductive toxicity;
  • Endocrine disruption;
  • Sex hormone;
  • Zebrafish


The objective of the present study was to investigate the impact of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on fish reproduction over 2 generations. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos (F0) were exposed to low concentrations (3 µg/L, 10 µg/L, and 30 µg/L) of the PBDE mixture DE-71 until they were sexually mature, and steroid hormone production, expression of genes involved in steroidogenesis, gonadal development, and gamete characteristics were examined. Exposure of female zebrafish to DE-71 resulted in lower estradiol production and downregulation of cytochrome P450 aromatase mRNA. In males, exposure to DE-71 resulted in greater testosterone production and greater cytochrome P450 c17 α-hydroxylase,17,20-lase mRNA expression. Moreover, hepatic vitellogenin mRNA and estrogenic receptor β gene transcription were downregulated in females and males. Expression of the follicle-stimulating hormone β gene in the pituitary was upregulated, and the expression of luteinizing hormone β was downregulated in both sexes. Histological examination showed inhibition of oocyte maturation in females and retarded spermiation in males. The average number of eggs (F1) produced was also reduced. Additionally, exposure of F0 embryos to DE-71 did not result in developmental toxicity, whereas delayed hatching, reduced survival, and decreased growth were observed in the F1 embryos derived from parent fish exposed to DE-71. Therefore, long-term exposure to low concentrations of PBDEs in zebrafish could cause reproductive impairment, suggesting that PBDEs might have significant adverse effects on fish population in the highly PBDEs-contaminated aquatic environment. Environ Toxicol Chem 2014;33:1354–1362. © 2014 SETAC