The plasticizer bisphenol A affects somatic and sexual development, but differently in pipid, hylid and bufonid anurans

Due to their terrestrial habitats and aquatic reproduction, many amphibians are both very vulnerable and highly suitable bioindicators. The plasticizer bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the most produced chemical substances worldwide, and knowledge on its impacts on humans and animals is mounting. BPA is used for the industrial production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins and found in a multitude of consumer products. Studies on BPA have involved mammals, fish and the fully aquatic anuran model Xenopus laevis. However, our knowledge about the sexual development of non-model, often semi-terrestrial anuran amphibians remains poor. Using a recently developed experimental design, we simultaneously applied BPA to two non-model species (Hyla arborea, Hylidae; Bufo viridis, Bufonidae) and the model X. laevis (Pipidae), compared their genetic and phenotypic sex for detection of sex reversals, and studied sexual development, focusing on anatomical and histological features of gonads. We compared three concentrations of BPA (0.023, 2.28 and 228 μg/L) to control groups in a high-standard flow-through-system, and tested whether conclusions, drawn from the model species, can be extrapolated to non-model anurans. In contrast to previous studies on fish and Xenopus, often involving dosages much higher than most environmental pollution data, we show that BPA causes neither the development of mixed sex nor of sex-reversed individuals (few, seemingly BPA-independent sex reversals) in all focal species. However, environmentally relevant concentrations, as low as 0.023 μg/L, were sufficient to provoke species-specific anatomically and histologically detectable impairments of gonads, and affected morphological traits of metamorphs. As the intensity of these effects differed between the three species, our data imply that BPA diversely affects amphibians with different evolutionary history, sex determination systems and larval ecologies. These results highlight the role of amphibians as a sensitive group that is responsive to environmental pollution.

Stephanie Tamschick, Beata Rozenblut-Kościsty, Maria Ogielska and al., Environmental Pollution, Volume 216, September 2016, Pages 282–291

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