Synthetic glucocorticoids are pharmaceutical compounds prescribed in human and veterinary medicine as anti-inflammatory agents and have the potential to contaminate natural watersheds via inputs from wastewater treatment facilities and confined animal-feeding operations. Despite this, few studies have examined the effects of this class of chemicals on aquatic vertebrates. To generate data to assess potential risk to the aquatic environment, we used fathead minnow 21-d reproduction and 29-d embryo-larvae assays to determine reproductive toxicity and early-life-stage effects of dexamethasone. Exposure to 500μg dexamethasone/L in the 21-d test caused reductions in fathead minnow fecundity and female plasma estradiol concentrations and increased the occurrence of abnormally hatched fry. Female fish exposed to 500μg dexamethasone/L also displayed a significant increase in plasma vitellogenin protein levels, possibly because of decreased spawning. A decrease in vitellogenin messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) expression in liver tissue from females exposed to the high dexamethasone concentration lends support to this hypothesis. Histological results indicate that a 29-d embryo-larval exposure to 500μg dexamethasone/L caused a significant increase in deformed gill opercula. Fry exposed to 500μg dexamethasone/L for 29d also exhibited a significant reduction in weight and length compared with control fry. Taken together, these results indicate that nonlethal concentrations of a model glucocorticoid receptor agonist can impair fish reproduction, growth, and development.
- Fathead minnow
- Glucocorticoid receptor