Ecotoxicology and environmental safety

Effects of chronic exposures to the herbicides atrazine and glyphosate to larvae of the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

PMID 23273618


Atrazine (ATR) and glyphosate (GLY) are among the most widely used herbicides in Canada, yet there is relatively little information concerning their toxicity to early life stages of marine fish. The threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) reproduces in coastal habitats which receive runoff of pesticides during the summer, the peak season of herbicide use. Sticklebacks have biomarkers for effects of both estrogenic and androgenic contaminants. Stickleback adults from a clean reference site were allowed to reproduce in the laboratory and the fertilized eggs were incubated until hatching. Larval sticklebacks (<24h old) were exposed for 42 d to four concentrations (0.1, 1, 10 and 100 μg/l) of either ATR or GLY, a seawater control, a carrier (acetone) control and positive controls for estrogenic (0.05 μg/l ethinylestradiol, EE2) and androgenic (3 μg/l dihydrotestosterone, DHT) effects. The survivors were measured (length, wet weight) then conserved for biochemical (vitellogenin, VTG, and the male nest-protein spiggin, SPG) and histological (phenotypic sex determination) analyses. There were no significant effects of ATR and GLY exposures on larval survival or growth. Exposure to 3 μg DHT/l resulted in a significant effect on growth (body lengths) but did not induce SPG, possibly because of DHT degradation after the 24h solution renewal. VTG was induced after the EE2 exposure, yet neither ATR nor GLY induced production of VTG and SPG. The proportion of mixed sex individuals was higher in the positive controls compared to the negative controls. A single mixed sex individual was found in the group exposed to the lowest dose of atrazine and none in glyphosate expositions. We conclude that these herbicides do not show estrogenic or androgenic effects to early life stages of sticklebacks at environmentally realistic concentrations.

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Atrazine, PESTANAL®, analytical standard