Impact of environmental estrogens on fish considering the diversity of estrogen signaling
Research on endocrine disruption in fish has been dominated by studies on estrogen-active compounds which act as mimics of the natural estrogen, 17 beta-estradiol (E2), and generally exert their biological actions by binding to and activation of estrogen receptors (ERs). Estrogens play central roles in reproductive physiology and regulate (female) sexual differentiation. In line with this, most adverse effects reported for fish exposed to environmental estrogens relate to sexual differentiation and reproduction. E2, however, utilizes a variety of signaling mechanisms, has multifaceted functions and targets, and therefore the toxicological and ecological effects of environmental estrogens in fish will extend beyond those associated with the reproduction. This review first describes the diversity of estrogen receptor signaling in fish, including both genomic and non-genomic mechanisms, and receptor crosstalk. It then considers the range of non-reproductive physiological processes in fish that are known to be responsive to estrogens, including sensory systems, the brain, the immune system, growth, specifically through the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor system, and osmoregulation. The diversity in estrogen responses between fish species is then addressed, framed within evolutionary and ecological contexts, and we make assessments on their relevance for toxicological sensitivity as well as ecological vulnerability. The diversity of estrogen actions raises questions whether current risk assessment strategies, which focus on reproductive endpoints, and a few model fish species only, are protective of the wider potential health effects of estrogens. Available - although limited - evidence nevertheless suggests that quantitative environmental threshold concentrations for environmental protection derived from reproductive tests with model fish species are protective for non-reproductive effects as well. The diversity of actions of estrogens across divergent physiological systems, however, may lead to and underestimation of impacts on fish populations as their effects are generally considered on one functional process only and this may underrepresent the impact on the different physiological processes collectively. (C) 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.