The effects of temperature and salinity on 17-α-ethynylestradiol uptake and its relationship to oxygen consumption in the model euryhaline teleost (Fundulus heteroclitus)

Tamzin Blewett, Deborah L. MacLatchy, Chris M. Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The synthetic estrogen 17-α-ethynylestradiol (EE2), a component of birth control and hormone replacement therapy, is discharged into the environment via wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents. The present study employed radiolabeled EE2 to examine impacts of temperature and salinity on EE2 uptake in male killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). Fish were exposed to a nominal concentration of 100ng/L EE2 for 2h. The rate of EE2 uptake was constant over the 2h period. Oxygen consumption rates (MO2), whole body uptake rates, and tissue-specific EE2 distribution were determined. In killifish acclimated to 18°C at 16ppt (50% sea water), MO2 and EE2 uptake were both lower after 24h exposure to 10°C and 4°C, and increased after 24h exposure to 26°C. Transfer to fresh water (FW) for 24h lowered EE2 uptake rate, and long-term acclimation to fresh water reduced it by 70%. Both long-term acclimation to 100% sea water (32ppt) and a 24h transfer to 100% sea water also reduced EE2 uptake rate by 50% relative to 16ppt. Tissue-specific accumulation of EE2 was highest (40-60% of the total) in the liver plus gall bladder across all exposures, and the vast majority of this was in the bile at 2h, regardless of temperature or salinity. The carcass was the next highest accumulator (30-40%), followed by the gut (10-20%) with only small amounts in gill and spleen. Killifish chronically exposed (15 days) to 100ng/L EE2 displayed no difference in EE2 uptake rate or tissue-specific distribution. Drinking rate, measured with radiolabeled polyethylene glycol-4000, was about 25 times greater in 16ppt-acclimated killifish relative to FW-acclimated animals. However, drinking accounted for less than 30% of gut accumulation, and therefore a negligible percentage of whole body EE2 uptake rates. In general, there were strong positive relationships between EE2 uptake rates and MO2, suggesting similar uptake pathways of these lipophilic molecules across the gills. These data will be useful in developing a predictive model of how key environmental parameter variations (salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen) affect EE2 uptake in estuarine fish, to determine optimal timing and location of WWTP discharges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-71
Number of pages11
JournalAquatic Toxicology
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013


  • Ethynylestradiol
  • Killifish
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Salinity
  • Temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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