Modulation of the stress response in wild fish is associated with variation in dissolved nitrate and nitrite

Pottinger, Tom G.. 2017 Modulation of the stress response in wild fish is associated with variation in dissolved nitrate and nitrite. Environmental Pollution, 225. 550-558.

Before downloading, please read NORA policies.
N515095PP.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Disruption of non-reproductive endocrine systems in wildlife by chemicals has received little attention but represents a potentially significant problem. Nitrate is a major anthropogenic contaminant in the freshwater aquatic environment and has been identified as a potential disrupter of endocrine function in aquatic animals. This study was conducted to investigate the relationship between the function of the neuroendocrine stress axis in fish and inorganic N loading along reaches of rivers receiving cumulative point source and diffuse chemical inputs. To accomplish this, the responsiveness of the stress axis, quantified as the rate of release of cortisol to water across the gills during exposure to a standardised stressor, was measured in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus L.) resident at three sites on each of four rivers in north-west England. The magnitude of the stress response in fish captured at the sites furthest downstream on all rivers was more than twice that of fish captured at upstream sites. Site-specific variation in stress axis reactivity was better explained by between-site variation in concentrations of dissolved nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia than by the concentration of wastewater treatment works effluent. An increase in the magnitude of the stress response was seen among sticklebacks at sites where long-term averaged concentrations of NH3-N, NO3-N and NO2-N exceeded 0.6, 4.0 and 0.1 mg/L respectively. These data suggest that either (i) inorganic N is a better surrogate than wastewater effluent concentration for an unknown factor or factors affecting stress axis function in fish, or (ii) dissolved inorganic N directly exerts a disruptive influence on the function of the neuroendocrine stress axis in fish, supporting concerns that nitrate is an endocrine-modulating chemical.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Parr
ISSN: 0269-7491
Additional Keywords: stress, endocrine disruption, cortisol, three-spined stickleback, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 15 Mar 2017 16:03 +0 (UTC)

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

Downloads for past 30 days

Downloads per month over past year

More statistics for this item...