US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Aquatic Toxicology 152 (2014) 1–10


This article is a U.S. government work, and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) are endangered an adromous fish that may be exposed to feminizing endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) during early development, potentially altering physiological capacities, survival and fitness. To assess differential life stage sensitivity to common EDCs, we carried out short-term (4 day) exposures using three doses each of 17 α-ethinylestradiol (EE2), 17 β-estradiol(E2), and nonylphenol (NP) on four early life stages; embryos, yolk-sac larvae, feeding fry and 1 year old smolts. Differential response was compared using vitellogenin (Vtg, a precursor egg protein) gene transcription. Smolts were also examined for impacts on plasma Vtg, cortisol, thyroid hormones (T4/T3)and hepatosomatic index (HSI). Compound-related mortality was not observed in any life stage, but Vtg mRNA was elevated in a dose-dependent manner in yolk-sac larvae, fry and smolts but not in embryos. The estrogens EE2 and E2 were consistently stronger inducers of Vtg than NP. Embryos responded significantly to the highest concentration of EE2 only, while older life stages responded to the highest doses of all three compounds, as well as intermediate doses of EE2 and E2. Maximal transcription was greater for fry among the three earliest life stages, suggesting fry may be the most responsive life stage in early development. Smolt plasma Vtg was also significantly increased, and this response was observed at lower doses of each compound than was detected by gene transcription suggesting plasma Vtg is a more sensitive indicator at this life stage. HSI was increased at the highest doses of EE2 and E2, and plasma T3was decreased at the highest dose of EE2. Our results indicate that all life stages are potentially sensitive to endocrine disruption by estrogenic compounds and that physiological responses were altered over a short window of exposure, indicating the potential for these compounds to impact fish in the wild.