Transcriptomic changes underlie altered egg protein production and reduced fecundity in an estuarine model fish exposed to bifenthrin

Susanne M. Brander, Ken M. Jeffries, Bryan J. Cole, Bethany M. DeCourten, J. Wilson White, Simone Hasenbein, Nann A. Fangue, Richard E Connon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Pyrethroid pesticides are a class of insecticides found to have endocrine disrupting properties in vertebrates such as fishes and in human cell lines. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are environmental contaminants that mimic or alter the process of hormone signaling. In particular, EDCs that alter estrogen and androgen signaling pathways are of major concern for fishes because these EDCs may alter reproductive physiology, behavior, and ultimately sex ratio. Bifenthrin, a pyrethroid with escalating usage, is confirmed to disrupt estrogen signaling in several species of fish, including Menidia beryllina (inland silverside), an Atherinid recently established as a euryhaline model. Our main objective was to broadly assess the molecular and physiological responses of M. beryllina to the ng/L concentrations of bifenthrin typically found in the environment, with a focus on endocrine-related effects, and to discern links between different tiers of the biological hierarchy. As such, we evaluated the response of juvenile Menidia to bifenthrin using a Menidia-specific microarray, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) on specific endocrine-related genes of interest, and a Menidia-specific ELISA to the egg-coat protein choriogenin, to evaluate a multitude of molecular-level responses that would inform mechanisms of toxicity and any underlying causes of change at higher biological levels of organization. The sublethal nominal concentrations tested (0.5, 5 and 50 ng/L) were chosen to represent the range of concentrations observed in the environment and to provide coverage of a variety of potential responses. We then employed a 21-day reproductive assay to evaluate reproductive responses to bifenthrin (at 0.5 ng/L) in a separate group of adult M. beryllina. The microarray analysis indicated that bifenthrin influences a diverse suite of molecular pathways, from baseline metabolic processes to carcinogenesis. A more targeted examination of gene expression via qPCR demonstrated that bifenthrin downregulates a number of estrogen-related transcripts, particularly at the lowest exposure level. Choriogenin protein also decreased with exposure to increasing concentrations of bifenthrin, and adult M. beryllina exposed to 0.5 ng/L had significantly reduced reproductive output (fertilized eggs per female). This reduction in fecundity is consistent with observed changes in endocrine-related gene expression and choriogenin production. Taken together, our results demonstrate that environmental concentrations of bifenthrin have potential to interfere with metabolic processes, endocrine signaling, and to decrease reproductive output.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-260
Number of pages14
JournalAquatic Toxicology
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Choriogenin
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Gene expression
  • Inland silverside
  • Microarray
  • Pyrethroid
  • Spawning assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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