Comparative Effects of Embryonic Metformin Exposure on Wild and Laboratory-Spawned Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas) Populations Academic Article uri icon

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  • Metformin is routinely detected in aquatic ecosystems because of its widespread use as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes. Laboratory studies have shown that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of metformin can alter metabolic pathways and impact the growth of early life stage (ELS) fish; however, it is unknown whether these effects occur in wild populations. Herein, we evaluate whether findings from laboratory studies are representative and describe the relative sensitivities of both populations. Duplicate exposures (0, 5, or 50 μg/L metformin) were conducted using wild- and lab-spawned fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) embryos. Apart from the water source, exposure conditions remained constant. Wild embryos were exposed to previously dosed lake water to account for changes in bioavailability, while reconstituted freshwater was used for the laboratory study. Developmental metformin exposure differentially impacted the growth and morphology of both cohorts, with energy dyshomeostasis and visual effects indicated. The fitness of wild-spawned larvae was impacted to a greater extent relative to lab-spawned fish. Moreover, baseline data reveal important morphological differences between wild- and lab-spawned ELS fatheads that may diminish representativeness of lab studies. Findings also confirm the bioavailability of metformin in naturally occurring systems and suggest current exposure scenarios may be sufficient to negatively impact developing fish.


  • Nielsen, Kristin M
  • DeCamp, Lily
  • Birgisson, Mona
  • Palace, Vince P
  • Kidd, Karen
  • Parrott, Joanne L
  • McMaster, Mark E
  • Alaee, Mehran
  • Blandford, Nicholas
  • Ussery, Erin J

publication date

  • July 19, 2022