Differential metamorphosis alters the endocrine response in anuran larvae exposed to T3 and atrazine

Jennifer L. Freeman, Nathan Beccue, A. Lane Rayburn

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Pesticide chemical contamination is one of the suspected contributors of the amphibian population decline. The herbicide atrazine is one of the major surface water contaminants in the U.S. A previous study has shown that atrazine at concentrations as low as 100 parts per billion (ppb) increased the time to metamorphosis in Xenopus laevis tadpoles. However, questions remain as to the applicability of a study of a non-native species to a native organism. The possible effects of atrazine on developing Bufo americanus were explored. Atrazine at potentially (albeit high) environmental concentrations was found not to delay the metamorphosis of developing B. americanus tadpoles as observed in X. laevis. Several studies have indicated that atrazine affects thyroid hormones. Since thyroid hormones are critical in amphibian metamorphosis, B. americanus and X. laevis tadpoles were exposed to exogenous 3,5,3′- triiodothyronine (T3). X. laevis were found to be more responsive to the effects of exogenous T3 compared to B. americanus, indicating that X. laevis may be more sensitive to endocrine active chemicals than B. americanus. In X. laevis, nuclear heterogeneity has been associated with metamorphosis. Flow cytometric analysis of the nuclei of normal metamorphing B. americanus indicates a decrease in the amount of thyroid mediated chromatin alterations relative to the nuclei of metamorphing X. laevis. Indications are that the differential response to endocrine disruption is due to the differential role of chromatin associated gene expression during metamorphosis of B. americanus versus X. laevis. A second native species, Hyla versicolor, was observed to have the X. laevis nuclear pattern with respect to metamorphosis. As such, sensitivity to endocrine disruption is hypothesized not to be limited to laboratory non-native species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-276
Number of pages14
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 10 2005


  • Atrazine
  • Bufo
  • Flow cytometry
  • Hyla
  • Metamorphosis
  • Xenopus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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