Evaluation of the lethal & sub-lethal toxicity and potential endocrine disrupting effect of nonylphenol on the  zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).

Brian Quinn, Francois Gagne, Christian Blaise, Mark J. Costello, James G. Wilson, Carmel Mothersill

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Nonylphenol (NP) is commonly found in surface waters nearby municipal wastewater treatment plants and was shown to have endocrine disrupting effects in aquatic organisms. The purpose of this study was to investigate the toxicity and potential endocrine disrupting effects of NP on the freshwater zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha). Toxicity assessment yielded LC50 values of 3.68, 2.19 and 1.62 mg L− 1 after 15, 35 and 50 days of exposure, respectively. LC10 values of 1.6, 1.11 and 0.68 mg L− 1 were respectively obtained for similar exposure periods. At concentrations > 5 mg L− 1, mortality effects were significant, as were those relating to attachment and siphon extension (indicating filtration), both general indicators of health. Endocrine disruption effects were investigated after a prolonged exposure (112 d) to 5 and 500 μg L− 1 NP by measuring Vitellin (Vn)-like protein levels using the alkali-labile phosphate (ALP) assay and gel electrophoresis (GE). An increase in ALP levels was observed in both male and female mussels, although only marginal owing to a significant decrease in the mussels' health indicated by its condition, during the experiment. These levels, however, increased proportionally with NP concentration. Using solid phase thin-layer chromatography, we confirmed increased levels of the steroid cholesterol and evidence of NP uptake. Cholesterol levels in gonad tissue proved to be a more responsive biomarker of exposure to NP than levels of ALP. Further implications relating to the occurrence of endocrine disruption in the zebra mussel are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Nonylphenol
  • Zebra mussel
  • Toxicity
  • Endocrine disruption


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