Steroid levels and steroid metabolism in the mussel Mytilus edulis: the modulating effect of dispersed crude oil and alkylphenols.Aquat Toxicol. 2006 Jun 01; 78 Suppl 1:S65-72.AT
Significant amounts of oil and alkylphenols are released into the sea by petroleum installations as a result of discharges of produced water. Some of these pollutants elicit estrogenic responses in fish, but their effects on the endocrine system of molluscs are largely unknown. In this study, mussels Mytilus edulis were exposed to North Sea oil (O) and the mixture of North Sea oil+alkylphenols (OAP), and the effects on tissue steroid levels and steroid metabolism (P450-aromatase and estradiol-sulfotransferase) were monitored. Levels of free testosterone and free estradiol were much higher in gonad tissue than in peripheral tissue, whereas esterified steroids (released after saponification) were of the same order of magnitude in both tissues. Levels of free steroids determined in gonads were not affected by exposure, but esterified steroids significantly increased in OAP exposed mussels (up to 2.4-fold). The sulfation of estradiol was investigated as a conjugation pathway, and increased activities were observed in digestive gland cytosol of both O and OAP exposure groups (up to 2.8-fold). Additionally, increased P450-aromatase activity was determined in OAP exposed mussels (up to three-fold, both in gonad and digestive gland), but not in the O group. Altogether, the results indicate that North Sea oil leads to increased sulfation of estradiol, and that in combination with alkylphenols, additional alterations are observed: increased P450-aromatase, and increased levels of esterified-steroids in gonads. Nonetheless, mussels are able to maintain gonad concentrations of free steroids unaltered, possibly via homeostatic mechanisms such as the conjugation with fatty acid or the formation of sulphate conjugates.