Chronic nitrate exposure alters reproductive physiology in fathead minnows

Kristen A. Kellock, Adrian P. Moore, Robert B. Bringolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Nitrate is a ubiquitous aquatic pollutant that is commonly associated with eutrophication and dead zones in estuaries around the world. At high concentrations nitrate is toxic to aquatic life but at environmental concentrations it has also been purported as an endocrine disruptor in fish. To investigate the potential for nitrate to cause endocrine disruption in fish, we conducted a lifecycle study with fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) exposed to nitrate (0, 11.3, and 56.5 mg/L (total nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N)) from <24 h post hatch to sexual maturity (209 days). Body mass, condition factor, gonadal somatic index (GSI), incidence of intersex, and vitellogenin induction were determined in mature male and female fish and plasma 11-keto testosterone (11-KT) was measured in males only. In nitrate-exposed males both 11-KT and vitellogenin were significantly induced when compared with controls. No significant differences occurred for body mass, condition factor, or GSI among males and intersex was not observed in any of the nitrate treatments. Nitrate-exposed females also had significant increases in vitellogenin compared to controls but no significant differences for mass, condition factor, or GSI were observed in nitrate exposed groups. Estradiol was used as a positive control for vitellogenin induction. Our findings suggest that environmentally relevant nitrate levels may disrupt steroid hormone synthesis and/or metabolism in male and female fish and may have implications for fish reproduction, watershed management, and regulation of nutrient pollution. • Complete lifecycle exposure investigating the endocrine disrupting effects of nitrate in fish.• Chronic nitrate exposure resulted in endocrine disruption.• 11-ketotestosterone and vitellogenin induction in male fathead minnows exposed to nitrate.• The ubiquitous nature of nitrate pollution highlights the need for additional work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)322-328
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this projected was provided by the Georgia Water Resources Institute ( RB665-G2 ), the University of Georgia Interdisciplinary Toxicology Program, and a University of Georgia Faculty Research Grant to R. Bringolf. We thank Julie Creamer, Seth Sullivan and Bob Ratajczak for their help with fish care and maintenance. This study was conducted under the auspices of the University of Georgia Animal Use Protocol No. A2010 05-074-R2.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • 11-Ketotestosterone
  • Aquatic toxicology
  • Chronic exposure
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Nutrients
  • Vitellogenin


Dive into the research topics of 'Chronic nitrate exposure alters reproductive physiology in fathead minnows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this