Estrogenic environmental contaminants alter the mRNA abundance profiles of genes involved in gonadal differentiation of the American bullfrog

Stephanie E. Wolff, Nik Veldhoen, Caren C. Helbing, Claire A. Ramirez, Janae M. Malpas, Catherine R. Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Wildlife and human populations are exposed to anthropogenic mixtures of chemicals in the environment that may adversely influence normal reproductive function and development.We determined the effects of exposure to estrogenic chemicals and wastewater effluent (WWE) on developing gonads of the American bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana, a specieswhosewidespread distribution make it an idealmodel for environmentalmonitoring of endocrine effects of chemical contaminants. Premetamorphic bullfrog tadpoles were exposed to treatment vehicle, 17β-estradiol (E2; 10-9 M) or 4-tert-octylphenol (OP; 10-9 M, 10-8 M, and 10-7 M). Additionally, gonadal differentiation was evaluated in bullfrog tadpoles from a WWE-containing site versus those from a reference location receiving noWWE. In both studies, phenotypic sex, steroidogenic factor-1 (nr5a1), and aromatase (cyp19a1)mRNA levels using quantitative real-time PCRwere determined. Exposure to E2 or OP did not alter sex ratios. In controls, both nr5a1 and cyp19a1 transcript levels exhibited sexual dimorphism, with males demonstrating higher levels of nr5a1 and females greater abundance of cyp19a1. However, E2 exposure increased cyp19a1 mRNA abundance in testes and decreased levels in ovaries, eliminating the sexual dimorphismobserved in controls. E2-exposed males exhibited increased nr5a1 transcript levels in the testes compared to controls, while females demonstrated no E2 effect. OP treatment had no effect on female cyp19a1 mRNA abundance, but exposure to 10-7 M OP increased testicular transcript levels. Treatment with 10-9 and 10-8 M OP, but not 10-7 M, resulted in decreased abundance of nr5a1 transcript in both ovaries and testes. Animals from the field had sexually dimorphic gonadal levels of cyp19a1, but both sexes from the WWE site exhibited elevated cyp19a1 transcript abundance compared to the reference location. Individual chemical compounds and anthropogenic wastewater effluent dispersed within the environment influence the levels of gonadal mRNA encoding key proteins involved in gonadal differentiation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)380-387
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Amphibian
  • Aromatase
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Gonadal differentiation
  • Octylphenol
  • Steroidogenic factor 1
  • Wastewater effluent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Estrogenic environmental contaminants alter the mRNA abundance profiles of genes involved in gonadal differentiation of the American bullfrog'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this