Environmental pollutants and the reproductive system in birds : Developmental effects of estrogenic compounds

Sammanfattning: A number of environmental pollutants have been shown to mimick the action of the female sex hormone estrogen and are, therefore, suspected to be responsible for reproductive abnormalities seen in wildlife. Test systems which can be used in hazard and risk assessment of chemicals with estrogenic effects are consequently needed. In this thesis, I propose the avian egg as an in vivo test system for estrogenic compounds. I conclude that malformation of the left testis and the Müllerian ducts (MDs: embryonic oviducts) in avian embryos can be used as endpoints to examine estrogenic activity of chemicals. MD malformation is more easily determined and thereby faster to use as an endpoint than histologically observed feminization of the testis. The usefulness of MD/oviduct malformations as biomarkers for estrogenic effects in wild birds should be considered. The environmental pollutants bisphenol A (BPA) and o,p´-DDT induced similar effects as the synthetic estrogens, ethynylestradiol and diethylstilbestrol. BPA caused MD malformations in quail embryos and ovotestis formation in chicken embryos. o,p´-DDT induced MD malformations in both quail and chicken embryos and ovotestis in chicken embryos. The flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol A did not induce estrogen-like effects in quail or chicken embryos, but showed a relatively high embryolethality. Embryonic exposure to estrogen caused persisting malformations of the oviduct, as well as a changed distribution pattern of the enzyme carbonic anhydrase in the shell gland of adult females. Considering the crucial role of carbonic anhydrase in shell formation, such changes could result in decreased shell quality. I propose that eggshell thinning in avian wildlife could reflect a functional malformation in the shell gland that is induced by xeno-estrogens during embryonic development, rather than being caused by exposure of the adult bird to environmental pollutants. This hypothesis opens new possibilities for studying the mechanisms behind contaminant-induced eggshell thinning in birds.