Open Access Open Badges Research

Estrogen-like activity of seafood related to environmental chemical contaminants

Sonia Garritano1, Barbara Pinto2, Marco Calderisi2, Teresa Cirillo3, Renata Amodio-Cocchieri3 and Daniela Reali2*

Author Affiliations

1 IARC, 150 Cours Albert-Thomas, 69372 Lyon Cedex 08, France

2 Department of Experimental Pathology, Medical Biotechnology, Infectivology and Epidemiology, University of Pisa, Via San Zeno 37, 56127 Pisa, Italy

3 Department of Food Science, University of Naples Federico II, Via Università 100, 80055 Portici, Italy

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Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 2006, 5:9  doi:10.1186/1476-069X-5-9

Published: 30 March 2006



A wide variety of environmental pollutants occur in surface waters, including estuarine and marine waters. Many of these contaminants are recognised as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) which can adversely affect the male and female reproductive system by binding the estrogen receptor and exhibiting hormone-like activities. In this study the estrogenic activity of extracts of edible marine organisms for human consumption from the Mediterranean Sea was assayed.


Marine organisms were collected in two different areas of the Mediterranean Sea. The estrogenic activity of tissues was assessed using an in vitro yeast reporter gene assay (S. cerevisiae RMY 326 ER-ERE). Concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) (congeners 28, 52, 101, 118, 138, 153, 180) in fish tissue was also evaluated.


Thirty-eight percent of extracts showed a hormone-like activity higher than 10% of the activity elicited by 10 nM 17b-estradiol (E2) used as control.

Total PCB concentrations ranged from 0.002 up to 1.785 ng/g wet weight. Chemical analyses detected different levels of contamination among the species collected in the two areas, with the ones collected in the Adriatic Sea showing concentrations significantly higher than those collected in the Tyrrhenian Sea (p < 0.01).


The more frequent combination of chemicals in the samples that showed higher estrogenic activity was PCB 28, PCB 101, PCB 153, PCB 180.

The content of PCBs and estrogenic activity did not reveal any significant correlation.