Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) inducers and estrogen receptor (ER) activities in surface sediments of Three Gorges Reservoir, China evaluated with in vitro cell bioassays

J. Wang, T.F.H. Bovee, Y. Bi, S. Bernhöft, K.W. Schramm

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    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Two types of biological tests were employed for monitoring the toxicological profile of sediment cores in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR), China. In the present study, sediments collected in June 2010 from TGR were analyzed for estrogen receptor (ER)- and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-mediated activities. The estrogenic activity was assessed using a rapid yeast estrogen bioassay, based on the expression of a green fluorescent reporter protein. Weak anti-estrogenic activity was detected in sediments from an area close to the dam of the reservoir, and weak estrogenic activities ranging from 0.3 to 1 ng 17ß-estradiol (E2) equivalents (EQ) g-1 dry weight sediment (dw) were detected in sediments from the Wanzhou to Guojiaba areas. In the upstream areas Wanzhou and Wushan, sediments demonstrated additive effects in co-administration of 1 nM E2 in the yeast test system, while sediments from the downstream Badong and Guojiaba areas showed estrogenic activities which seemed to be more than additive (synergistic activity). There was an increasing tendency in estrogenic activity from upstream of TGR to downstream, while this tendency terminated and converted into anti-estrogenic activity in the area close to the dam. The AhR activity was detected employing rat hepatoma cell line (H4IIE). EROD activities were found homogenously distributed in sediments in TGR ranging from 200 to 311 pg 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) EQ g-1 dw for total AhR agonists and from 45 to 76 pg TCDD EQ g-1 dw for more persistent AhR agonists. The known AhR agonists polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, polychlorinated biphenyl, and PCDD/F only explained up to 8 % of the more persistent AhR agonist activity in the samples, which suggests that unidentified AhR-active compounds represented a great proportion of the TCDD EQ in sediments from TGR. These findings of estrogenic potential and dioxin-like activity in TGR sediments provide possible weight-of-evidence of potential ecotoxicological causes for the declines in fish populations which have been observed during the past decades in TGR.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3145-3155
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • lumbriculus-variegatus oligochaeta
    • endocrine disrupting chemicals
    • green fluorescent protein
    • effect-directed analysis
    • yangtze-river
    • dioxin-like
    • environmental-samples
    • waste-water
    • steroidal estrogens
    • toxicity


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