The UV filter benzophenone 3 (BP-3) activates hormonal genes mimicking the action of ecdysone and alters embryo development in the insect Chironomus riparius (Diptera)

Environ Pollut. 2014 Sep;192:19-26. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2014.04.038. Epub 2014 May 27.


Numerous studies have evaluated the endocrine effects of UV filters in vertebrates, but little attention has been paid to their possible hormonal activity in invertebrates. We examined the effects of benzophenone-3 (BP-3), one of the most common sunscreen agents, in Chironomus riparius (Insecta), a reference organism in aquatic toxicology. Salivary glands from larvae were treated with either the hormone ecdysone or BP-3 to compare the response of endocrine genes. It was found that BP-3 elicits the same effects as the natural hormone activating the expression of a set of ecdysone responsive genes. BP-3 also activated the stress gene hsp70. Interestingly, similar effects have been confirmed in vivo in embryos. Moreover, BP-3 also altered embryogenesis delaying hatching. This is the first demonstration of hormonal activity of UV filters in invertebrates, showing a mode of action similar to ecdysteroid hormones. This finding highlights the potential endocrine disruptive effects of these emergent pollutants.

Keywords: Chironomus; Ecdysone; Hormonal pathways; Insects; Organic UV filters.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Benzophenones / toxicity*
  • Chironomidae / embryology
  • Chironomidae / genetics
  • Chironomidae / metabolism
  • Ecdysone / genetics
  • Ecdysone / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Embryonic Development / drug effects*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / toxicity*


  • Benzophenones
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Ecdysone