Estrogenic responses of larval sunshine bass (Morone saxatilis x M. Chrysops) exposed to New York City sewage effluent.


To determine the estrogenicity of effluents from sewage treatment plants (STPs) to larval fish, 2-day-old sunshine bass were exposed to effluents from three STPs serving New York City (NYC), varying in size and treatment level. Estrogenic response was evaluated by measuring vitellogenin (VTG) and estrogen receptor (ER) expression in cytosolic fractions of whole body homogenates. Concentrations of the presumptive endocrine disruptors in the effluents were also measured. VTG and ER levels in sewage-exposed fish were 3-5 times that observed in controls. Combined concentrations of estradiol and estrone ranged from 5 to 13 ng/l and nonylphenol-ethoxylate metabolites (NPEOs: 4-nonylphenol, and 1-, 2-, and 3-nonylphenol-ethoxylates) ranged from 180 to 470 microg/l in chlorinated effluent. Results indicate that both ER and VTG can be used as biomarkers for endocrine disruption in larval fish, and that 4-day exposure to sewage effluent is sufficient to elicit significant expression of these markers in sunshine bass larvae. The extremely higher concentrations of NPEOs found in effluent relative to hormones (approximately 40,000-fold) indicates that surfactant metabolites may be contributing significantly to the estrogenic effects observed.