What is it about?

Water quality is a concern for public health authorities as it may contain diverse environmental pollutants, including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Endocrine disrupting chemicals are one group of potentially hazardous substances that comprise natural and synthetic chemicals, with the ability to mimic endogenous hormones or interfere with their biosynthesis, metabolism, and normal functions. Common examples are bisphenol A, triclosan, phthalates, lead, mercury, nickel and polychlorinated biphenyls, among others. Fish are known to be quite sensitive to the effects of EDCs and therefore, are employed as research models to study the possible impacts of these chemicals in humans. In a review led by Purdue University (USA) and the University of Cartagena (Colombia), a team of researchers explains how the zebrafish is used as a model to predict the effects of EDCs on humans using toxicogenomic tools, such as microarrays or whole-genome sequencing. This is possible due to the fact that zebrafish genes that have significantly altered expression after exposure to EDCs are very similar to those found in humans. In addition, many of the organ systems found in zebrafish have similarities with those in humans, making this fish model suitable to study alterations on the endocrine system.

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Why is it important?

There is a backlog in defining if chemical pollutants may alter the endocrine system. Additional animal models and new tools are needed to inform this research area. Toxicogenomic tools offer the possibility to find new mechanisms by which EDCs alter the reproductive status of zebrafish, allowing its use to test the safety of new products entering the market. The possibilities are immense and the goal is to continue finding new markers of toxicity, and therefore alternative bridges to link EDC exposure to common diseases in humans.


The strengths of the zebrafish including biological similarities to mammals provides for a complementary whole animal model system to investigate adverse health outcomes and toxicity mechanisms to inform on human health risk of EDCs.

Dr. Jennifer L Freeman
Purdue University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Toxicogenomics to Evaluate Endocrine Disrupting Effects of Environmental Chemicals Using the Zebrafish Model, Current Genomics, October 2016, Bentham Science Publishers,
DOI: 10.2174/1389202917666160513105959.
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