Disruption in gonadal development of wild roach living in U.K. rivers receiving large volumes of treated sewage effluent is manifest in a variety of ways, ranging from malformation of the germ cells and/or reproductive ducts to altered gamete production. Intersex fish were also found to have an altered endocrine status and an elevated concentration of plasma vitellogenin. Gonadal growth was inhibited only in severely intersex fish, whereas progression of spermatogenesis was delayed in a large proportion of all intersex and exposed male fish. In contrast to the effects observed in the intersex and exposed male fish, the maturation of ovaries in female fish inhabiting effluent-contaminated rivers appeared to be less obviously affected, although a higher incidence of oocyte atresia was found in the effluent-exposed fish compared with the reference fish. A positive correlation was found between the proportion of female tissue in the gonads of intersex fish and their plasma vitellogenin concentration, suggesting that vitellogenin can be an indicator for the level of gonadal disruption in intersex roach. The estradiol-17β concentration in intersex fish was intermediate between the concentration found in males and females, and the plasma testosterone was between 2- and 3-fold higher in intersex fish compared with male fish. These data suggest a link between altered endocrine status in intersex and female fish and gonadal disruption. Spermiation was also affected in roach living in effluent-impacted rivers: a lower proportion of fish were found releasing sperm, and in those intersex fish that were spermiating, a reduced milt volume and a reduced sperm density were found. All intersex fish had malformations of the reproductive duct(s), and in severely affected fish, the ducts were occluded, thus preventing release of gametes. In view of the widespread occurrence of intersexuality in wild fish populations in rivers throughout the United Kingdom, assessment of the reproductive capabilities of these intersex roach is clearly needed to understand the impact of this phenomenon on roach fertility.
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