Alternatives to In Vivo Tests to Detect Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in Fish and Amphibians–Screening for Estrogen, Androgen And Thyroid Hormone Disruption

Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 2013;43(1):45-72

Abstract: Endocrine disruption is considered a highly relevant hazard for environmental risk assessment of chemicals, plant protection products, biocides and pharmaceuticals. Therefore, screening tests with a focus on interference with estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone pathways in fish and amphibians have been developed. However, they use a large number of animals and short-term alternatives to animal tests would be advantageous. Therefore, the status of alternative assays for endocrine disruption in fish and frogs was assessed by a detailed literature analysis. The aim was to (i) determine the strengths and limitations of alternative assays and (ii) present conclusions regarding chemical specificity, sensitivity, and correlation with in vivo data. Data from 1995 to present were collected related to the detection/testing of estrogen-, androgen-, and thyroid-active chemicals in the following test systems: cell lines, primary cells, fish/frog embryos, yeast and cell-free systems. The review shows that the majority of alternative assays measure effects directly mediated by receptor binding or resulting from interference with hormone synthesis. Other mechanisms were rarely analysed. A database was established and used for a quantitative and comparative analysis. For example, a high correlation was observed between cell-free ligand binding and cell-based reporter cell assays, between fish and frog estrogenic data and between fish embryo tests and in vivo reproductive effects. It was concluded that there is a need for a more systematic study of the predictive capacity of alternative tests and ways to reduce inter- and intra-assay variability.

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