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Keywords:

  • Environmental risk assessment;
  • Fathead minnow;
  • Progestins;
  • Twenty-one-day fish reproduction assay

Abstract

Although it is well known that estrogenic steroidal hormones are able to affect the sexual development and reproduction of fish at low concentrations, no data on environmental effects of the class of progestogenic hormones are available yet. Synthetic gestagens (progestins) are a component in oral contraceptives. Upon their use, a fraction of the progestins will be excreted via urine into the aquatic environment. On the basis of their pharmacological action in mammals, it is supposed that fish reproduction is the most sensitive endpoint for the progestin treatment. In order to test this assumption, the effects of two progestins currently marketed in contraceptive formulations, levonorgestrel (LNG) and drospirenone (DRSP), were investigated in adult fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) following an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 21-d fish reproduction screening assay draft protocol with additional end points. Levonorgestrel was tested at measured concentrations of 0.8, 3.3, and 29.6 ng/L, and DRSP at concentrations of 0.66, 6.5, and 70 μL. Both tested progestins caused an inhibition of reproduction. For LNG, this occurred at concentrations of 2:0.8 ng/L, no no-observed-effect concentration (NOEC) could be defined. Higher concentrations resulted in masculinization of females with de novo synthesis of nuptial tubercles. Drospirenone treatment, however, affected the reproductive success of fathead minnow at concentrations of 6.5 μL and higher with a clear dose-response relationship and a NOEC of 0.66 μL, which is above environmentally relevant concentrations.