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Cellular and molecular responses to endocrine-modulators and the impact on fish reproduction

Author(s): Arukwe A


Anthropogenic chemicals in the aquatic environment are known to cause reproductive disturbances in vertebrate and invertebrate organisms, by interfering with the endocrine systems. Laboratory-based in vivo and in vitro studies have indicated that several of the anthropogenic and other naturally occurring chemicals in the environment can cause adverse reproductive effects. Various definite or possible reproductive abnormalities caused by endocrine disruption have been identified, but in majority of the reported cases, it is not known whether adverse effects have occurred in the population level of biological organization. Disruption of the hormonal functions in fish may have effects on a number of events, including sexual maturation, gamete production and transport, sexual behaviour, fertility, gestation, lactation or modifications in other functions that are dependent on the integrity of the reproductive system. Although several reproductive effects have been reported, but the degree of causality established between the abnormalities observed and exposure to particular chemicals is variable, and understanding of the mechanism(s) is limited. Fishes are a vital source of proteins and lipids for humans and domestic animals, forming the basis for economically important fisheries and aquaculture. Large efforts have recently been devoted to dissect the mechanisms of action of xenobiotics in aquatic species, with the ultimate aim of detecting, controlling and possibly intervening in chemical exposure and its effects on the aquatic ecosystem and humans. In this context, we ought to be concerned with the health and safety of aquatic species per se, as well as a resource for human needs.

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