Genetic Impacts of Organotin Compounds

  • Tsuyoshi Nakanishi
  • Jun-ichi Nishikawa

The concept of endocrine disruption was introduced at the Work Session on “Chemically Induced Alterations in Sexual Development: The Wildlife/Human Connection” in 1991. At this session it was pointed out that a number of environmental chemicals affect hormonal systems and have adverse health effects on wildlife and probably on humans. Such chemicals are referred to as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and their effects have emerged as a major environmental issue. The nuclear receptors (NRs) of intrinsic hormone systems are likely to be targets of EDCs, because their intrinsic ligands are fat-soluble and low-molecular-weight agents, as are the environmental pollutants. Examples can be found among persistent organochlorine pollutants (DDT, PCBs), plasticizers (pthalates), detergents (alkylphenols) and birth control pills (ethy-nylestradiol) (McLachlan 2001). The effects of synthetic chemicals on sex hormone receptors such as the estrogen receptor (ER) and androgen receptor (AR) have attracted much attention, focusing on the reproductive failures observed in wildlife.

Among them, the imposex phenomenon in marine gastropods provides one of the clearest examples of endocrine disruption in wildlife. While many field studies have demonstrated the adverse effects of organotins upon female gastropods, the mechanism underlying the imposex phenomenon has not been fully elucidated. Organotin compounds have been widely used as antifouling paints for ships and fishing nets since the 1960s and have thus been released into marine environments. Aquatic invertebrates, particularly marine gastropods, are extremely sensitive to organotin compounds and undergo changes in sexual identity in response to exposure. Most marine gastropods in organotin-polluted areas have shown reproductive failure due to oviduct blockage by vas deferens formation, resulting in population decline or mass extinction (Bryan et al. 1988; ten Hallers-Tjabbes et al. 1994). This phenomenon is called “imposex” as an abbreviation of “imposed sexual organs”, because male genital organs, such as the penis and vas deferens, are imposed upon female organs (Smith 1971). Approximately 150 species of imposex-affected gastropods have been found in the world (Fent 1996; Matthiessen et al. 1999). Despite several hypotheses on the cause of imposex induction, such as aromatase inhibition, testosterone excretion-inhibition, functional disorder of the female cerebropleural ganglia, and involvement of neuropeptide APGWamide (Bettin et al. 1996; Ronis and Mason 1996; Oberdörster and McClellan-Green 2000, 2002), the mechanism through which they induce and promote the development of a penis-like structure and a vas deferens in female gastropods remains obscure.


Organotin Compound Marine Gastropod Human Aromatase Aromatase Gene Expression Human Placental Cell 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tsuyoshi Nakanishi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jun-ichi Nishikawa
    • 3
  1. 1.Laboratory of HygienicsGifu Pharmaceutical University, GifuGifuJapan
  2. 2.Department of ToxicologyGraduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Osaka UniversitySuitaJapan
  3. 3.Laboratory of Health SciencesSchool of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Mukogawa Women's UniversityNishinomiyaJapan

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