Endocrine Disruptors

© Photo Fraunhofer IME

How to assess the endocrine disrupting potential of chemicals

Endocrine disrupting substances are perceived by the general public as particularly threatening. Therefore, much effort is spent on the definition of endocrine effects and on developing test procedures focusing on the assessment of these effects. Pesticide legislation (EC 1107/2009) as well as the European Union regulation on chemicals (REACH) require that substances need to be tested for their potential to act as endocrine disruptors. The introduction of a “cut-off” criterion for endocrine disrupting substances in EC 1107/2009 underlines the importance of this topic for the industry.

Concerning the environmental effects of endocrine disruptors the focus is on aquatic vertebrates. While studies in fish concentrate on sexual endocrine effects, amphibians are tested for endocrine effects on the thyroid hormone system and metamorphosis. From the beginning on, Fraunhofer IME has been substantially involved in research activities on the identification and validation of population-relevant and indicative endpoints for sexual endocrine effects in fish, and in the development of in vivo test procedures and test strategies. By conducting the whole spectrum of studies from simple fish screening tests up to two generation tests with different fish species and for varying exposure scenarios we offer solutions for different objectives required by REACH or EC 1107/2009.

Selected publications

Duis, K., Scheider, J., Warnecke, D., Veen, A. van der, Coors, A., Knacker, T. Schäfers, C.:
Substances of very high concern under REACH – an evaluation of uncertainties in the environmental risk assessment of endocrine active substances. Texte - Umweltbundesamt, 37/2014, 190 pp. ISSN 1862-4804 (Download)

Schiller, V., Zhang, X., Hecker, M., Schäfers, C., Fischer, R., Fenske, M.:
Species-specific considerations in using the fish embryo test as an alternative to identify endocrine disruption. Aquatic Toxicology 155 (2014) 62–72
(DOI: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2014.06.005)

Schäfers, C.:
Ecological approaches to aquatic ecotoxicology challenged by the needs of risk assessment. Fraunhofer IME (Hrsg.), Fraunhofer Verlag, Stuttgart (2013) 200 pp., ISBN 978-3-8396-0542-4 (Download)

Schiller, V., Wichmann, A., Kriehuber, R., Schäfers, C., Fischer, R., Fenske, M.:
Transcriptome alterations in zebrafish embryos after exposure to environmental estrogens and anti-androgens can reveal endocrine disruption. Reproductive Toxicology 42 (2013) 210-223 (DOI: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2013.09.003)

Schiller, V., Wichmann, A., Kriehuber, R., Muth-Köhne, E., Giesy, J. P., Hecker, M., Fenske, M.:
Studying the effects of genistein on gene expression of fish embryos as an alternative testing approach for endocrine disruption. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology. Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology 157 (2013) No. 1: 41-53 (DOI: 10.1016/j.cbpc.2012.09.005)

Crane M, Groß M, Matthiessen P, Ankley G, Axford S, Bjerregaarde P, Brown R, Chapman P, Dorgeloh M, Galay-Burgosi M, Green J, Hazlerigg C, Janssen J, Lorenzen K, Parrott J, Rufli H, Schäfers C,  Seki M, Stolzenberg HC, van der Hoeven N, Vethaak D, Winfield I, Zok S, Wheeler J:
Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis of Test Endpoints for Detecting Endocrine Active Substances in Fish Full Life Cycle Tests. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, 6 (3) (2010) 378-389 (DOI: 10.1002/ieam.43)

Knacker T,  Boettcher M, Rufli H, Frische T, Stolzenberg HC, Teigeler M, Zok S, Braunbeck T, Schäfers C:
Environmental effect assessment for sexual-endocrine disrupting chemicals – fish testing strategy. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management , Vol 6 (4) (2010) 653-662 (DOI: 10.1002/ieam.92)

Schäfers C, Frische T, Stolzenberg H.-C., Weyers A, Zok S, Knacker T:
Zur Entwicklung einer Prüfstrategie auf sexual-endokrine Wirksamkeit einer chemischen Substanz bei Fischen. Umweltwissenschaften und Schadstoff-Forschung 20 (2009) 229-233. (DOI: 10.1007/s12302-008-0014-4)

Schäfers C, Teigeler M, Wenzel A, Maack G, Fenske M, Segner H:
Concentration- and time-dependent effects of the synthetic estrogen, 17a-ethynylestradiol, on reproductive capabilities of the zebrafish, Danio rerio. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 70 (2007) 768-779.
(DOI: 10.1080/15287390701236470)

Fenske M, Maack G, Schäfers C, Segner H:
An environmentally relevant concentration of estrogen induces arrest of male gonad development in zebrafish, Danio rerio. Environmental Toxicology and chemistry 24 (5) (2005) 1088-1098. (DOI: 10.1897/04-096R1.1)

Schäfers C, Teigeler M:
Testen und Bewerten – eine Teststrategie für Fische. In: Umweltbundesamt (ed.) 3. Statusseminar “Chemikalien in der Umwelt mit Wirkung auf das endocrine System. Wissenschaftliche Grundlagen der Bewertung und Regulierung“. Fraunhofer IRB Verlag (2005) 105-115. ISBN 3-8167-6968-3 (Download)

Segner H, Caroll K, Fenske M, Janssen CR, Maack G, Pascoe D, Schäfers C, Vandenbergh GF, Watts M, Wenzel A:
Identification of endocrine-disrupting effects in aquatic vertebrates and invertebrates : report from the European IDEA project. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 54 (2003) 302-314 (DOI: 10.1016/S0147-6513(02)00039-8)

Segner H, Navas JM, Schäfers C, Wenzel A:
Potencies of estrogenic compounds in in vitro screening assays and in life cycle tests with zebrafish in vivo. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 54 (2003) 315-322
(DOI: 10.1016/S0147-6513(02)00040-4)