Exposure to bleached kraft pulp mill effluent disrupts the pituitary-gonadal axis of white sucker at multiple sites
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Our recent studies have demonstrated reproductive problems in white sucker (Catostomus commersoni) exposed to bleached kraft pulp mill effluent (BKME) at Jackfish Bay on Lake Superior. These fish exhibit delayed sexual maturity, reduced gonadal size, reduced secondary sexual characteristics, and circulating steroid levels depressed relative to those of reference populations. The present studies were designed to evaluate sites in the pituitary-gonadal axis of prespawning white sucker affected by BKME exposure. At the time of entry to the spawning stream, plasma levels of immunoreactive gonadotropin (GtH)-II (LH-type GtH) in male and female white sucker were 30- and 50-fold lower, respectively, than the levels in fish from a reference site. A single intraperitoneal injection of D-Arg6, Pro9N-Et sGnRH (sGnRH-A, 0.1 mg/kg) increased plasma GtH levels in male and female fish at both sites, although the magnitude of the response was greatly reduced in BKME-exposed fish. Fish at the BKME site did not ovulate in response to sGnRH-A, while 10 of 10 fish from the reference site ovulated within 6 hr. Plasma 17 alpha,20 beta-dihydroxy-4-pregnen-3-one (17,20 beta-P) levels were depressed in BKME-exposed fish and unlike fish at the reference site, failed to increase in response to sGnRH-A. Testosterone levels in both sexes and 11-ketostestosterone levels in males were elevated in fish from the reference site but were not further increased by GnRH treatment. In contrast, BKME-exposed fish exhibit a transitory increase in testosterone levels in response to the GnRH analog. In vitro incubations of ovarian follicles obtained from fish at the BKME site revealed depressed basal secretion of testosterone and 17,20 beta-P and reduced responsiveness to the GtH analog human chorionic gonadotropin and to forskolin, a direct activator of adenylate cyclase. By comparison, ovarian follicles from fish collected at BKME and reference sites produced similar levels of prostaglandin E basally and in response to a phorbol ester and calcium ionophore A23187, suggesting that BKME effects on ovarian function are selective and do not reflect a general impairment of ovarian function. BKME-exposed fish had plasma levels of testosterone glucuronide proportionately lower than those of reference fish, suggesting that there are site differences in the peripheral metabolism of steroids. These studies demonstrate that BKME exposure affects reproduction by acting at multiple sites in the pituitary-gonadal axis.
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