PloS one

Exposure to paper mill effluent at a site in North Central Florida elicits molecular-level changes in gene expression indicative of progesterone and androgen exposure.

PMID 25198161


Endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) are chemicals that negatively impact endocrine system function, with effluent from paper mills one example of this class of chemicals. In Florida, female Eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) have been observed with male secondary sexual characteristics at three paper mill-impacted sites, indicative of EDC exposure, and are still found at one site on the Fenholloway River. The potential impacts that paper mill effluent exposure has on the G. holbrooki endocrine system and the stream ecosystem are unknown. The objective of this study was to use gene expression analysis to determine if exposure to an androgen receptor agonist was occurring and to couple this analysis with in vitro assays to evaluate the presence of androgen and progesterone receptor active chemicals in the Fenholloway River. Focused gene expression analyses of masculinized G. holbrooki from downstream of the Fenholloway River paper mill were indicative of androgen exposure, while genes related to reproduction indicated potential progesterone exposure. Hepatic microarray analysis revealed an increase in the expression of metabolic genes in Fenholloway River fish, with similarities in genes and biological processes compared to G. holbrooki exposed to androgens. Water samples collected downstream of the paper mill and at a reference site indicated that progesterone and androgen receptor active chemicals were present at both sites, which corroborates previous chemical analyses. Results indicate that G. holbrooki downstream of the Fenholloway River paper mill are impacted by a mixture of both androgens and progesterones. This research provides data on the mechanisms of how paper mill effluents in Florida are acting as endocrine disruptors.