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Effects of norethindrone on the growth, behavior, and thyroid endocrine system of adult female western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis)

et al. Yanfang Guo

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety


Progestins are mainly used in pharmacotherapy and animal husbandry and have received increasing attention as they are widely detected in various aquatic ecosystems.

In this study, adult female western mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) were exposed to different concentrations of norethindrone (NET) (solvent control, 5.0 (L), 50.0 (M), and 500.0 (H) ng/L) for 42 days.Behaviors, morphological parameters, histology of the thyroid, thyroid hormone levels (TSH, T3, and T4), and transcriptional levels of nine genes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis were examined. The results showed that NET decreased sociality but increased the anxiety of G. affinis.

Sociality makes fish tend to cluster, and anxiety may cause G. affinis to reduce exploration of new environments. Female fish showed hyperplasia, hypertrophy, and glial depletion in their thyroid follicular epithelial cells after NET treatment.The plasma levels of TSH and T4 were significantly reduced, but T3 concentrations were significantly increased in the fish from the H group. In addition, the transcripts of genes (tshb, tshr, tg, dio1, dio2, thrb) in the brains of fish in the M and H treatments were significantly stimulated, while those of trh and pax2a were suppressed.

Our results suggest that NET may impact key social behaviors in G. affinis and interfere with the entire thyroid endocrine system, probably via affecting the transcriptional expression of upstream regulators in the HPT axis.


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