, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 61–81 | Cite as

Crustacean endocrine toxicology: a review

  • Gerald A. LeBlanc


Crustaceans are major constituents to aquatic ecosystems that provide a variety of ecological and economic services. Individual crustacean species are adept at occupying diverse niches and their success, in part, stems from neuro-endocrine signaling cascades that regulate physiology in response to environmental and internal cues. Peptide hormones are major signal transducers in crustaceans. The crustacean hyperglycemic hormone family of peptides regulates various aspects of growth, reproduction, and metabolism. These peptides may function as the terminal hormone to regulate some physiological activities or may function as intermediates in a signaling cascade. Ecdysteroids and terpenoids are two major classes of terminal signaling molecules in these cascades. Hormones from these two classes function independently or in concert to regulate various processes. Ecdysteroid signaling is subject to toxicological disruption through disturbances in ecdysteroid synthesis or binding of toxicants to the ecdysteroid receptor. Methyl farnesoate is the major terpenoid hormone of crustaceans and also is susceptible to disruption by environmental chemicals. However, the methyl farnesoate signaling pathway is poorly understood and only limited mechanistic confirmation for disruption of this endocrine signaling pathway exists. Disruption of the ecdysteroid/terpenoid signaling pathways in crustaceans has been associated with aberrations in growth, metamorphosis, reproductive maturation, sex determination, and sex differentiation. Population studies have revealed disruptions in crustacean growth, molting, sexual development, and recruitment that are indicative of environmental endocrine disruption. However, environmental factors other that pollution (i.e., temperature, parasitism) also can elicit these effects and definitive causal relationships between endocrine disruption in field populations of crustaceans and chemical pollution is generally lacking.


Crustacean Endocrine Ecdysteroid Terpenoid Methyl farnesoate Intersex 



Studies described from the author’s laboratory were supported by US EPA grants R82935801, RD83130001, and RD83273901.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology North Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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