Standardization of plasma vitellogenin level for surveying environmental estrogen pollution using the Japanese common goby Acanthogobius flavimanus

J Appl Toxicol. 2018 Jul;38(7):1018-1025. doi: 10.1002/jat.3610. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Field surveys of the impact of environmental estrogen (EE) pollution in aquatic wildlife have been conducted using vitellogenin (VTG) as a biomarker to evaluate the influence of EE. However, a standard baseline of VTG level that can be used to evaluate EE pollution has not been fully determined. To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the first to determine the standard baseline VTG level for evaluating the biological effects of EE pollution using the Japanese common goby (Acanthogobius flavimanus) as the target model fish. Plasma VTG and estradiol-17β (E2 ) levels associated with the reproductive cycle of wild goby inhabiting an unpolluted environment were measured. Mean plasma VTG and E2 levels exhibited similar changes, increasing in the yolk vesicle stage and peaking in the tertiary yolk stage in females. However, plasma VTG and E2 levels showed no significant changes in males, remaining at low levels throughout the reproductive cycle. The highest VTG levels in females and males were 1.6 mg ml-1 and 124.87 ng ml-1 , respectively. These results indicate that the baseline level (normal level) in males was approximately 130 ng ml-1 at most. We concluded that the threshold between normal and abnormal levels with a 10% risk rate was 150 ng ml-1 in the wild male goby. Plasma VTG levels in males captured from Nagasaki Harbor were higher than the threshold in each reproductive developmental stage, indicating the possibility of EE pollution at this site. The biological standard baseline for VTG established in this study is useful for assessing EE pollution in natural waters.

Keywords: Japanese common goby; environmental estrogen; estradiol-17β; gonadal development; standard baseline; vitellogenin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Monitoring / standards*
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrogens / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fish Proteins / blood*
  • Fishes / blood*
  • Fishes / growth & development
  • Male
  • Ovary / drug effects*
  • Ovary / growth & development
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Testis / drug effects*
  • Testis / growth & development
  • Testis / metabolism
  • Vitellogenins / blood*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Biomarkers
  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogens
  • Fish Proteins
  • Vitellogenins
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Estradiol