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Studying the effects of genistein on gene expression of fish embryos as an alternative testing approach for endocrine disruption

: Schiller, Viktoria; Wichmann, Arne; Kriehuber, Ralf; Muth-Köhne, Elke; Giesy, John P.; Hecker, Markus; Fenske, Martina


Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology 157 (2013), Nr.1, S.41-53
ISSN: 1532-0456
ISSN: 0742-8413
ISSN: 0306-4492
Fraunhofer IME ()
zebrafish embryo; medaka embryo; endocrine disruption; genistein; transcriptomics

Assessment of endocrine disruption currently relies on testing strategies involving adult vertebrates. In order to minimize the use of animal tests according to the 3Rs principle of replacement, reduction and refinement, we propose a transcriptomics and fish embryo based approach as an alternative to identify and analyze an estrogenic activity of environmental chemicals. For this purpose, the suitability of 48 h and 7 days post-fertilization zebrafish and medaka embryos to test for estrogenic disruption was evaluated. The embryos were exposed to the phytoestrogen genistein and subsequently analyzed by microarrays and quantitative real-time PCR. The functional analysis showed that the genes affected related to multiple metabolic and signaling pathways in the early fish embryo, which reflect the known components of genistein's mode of actions, like apoptosis, estrogenic response, hox gene expression and steroid hormone synthesis. Moreover, the transcriptomic data also suggested a thyroidal mode of action and disruption of the nervous system development. The parallel testing of two fish species provided complementary data on the effects of genistein at gene expression level and facilitated the separation of common from species-dependent effects. Overall, the study demonstrated that combining fish embryo testing with transcriptomics can deliver abundant information about the mechanistic effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, rendering this strategy a promising alternative approach to test for endocrine disruption in a whole organism in-vitro scale system.