Endocrine disruption in gastropods - Target identification and modes of action

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can affect the hormone system of gastropods at low concentrations causing altered fecundity, feminisation or virilisation. However, ecotoxicological research in this area is hampered by the fact that endocrine pathways and modes of action of potential EDCs in gastropods are poorly understood.

The ovoviviparous New Zealand mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum is one of the model species used in this project. In this species effects of EDCs manifest in the reproductive performance of the parthenogenic females i.e. estrogenic substances cause an increase in embryo production. However, it is unclear by which mechanisms or modes of actions these effects are mediated because the target molecules for estrogenic substances (e.g. estrogen receptors) are not sufficiently characterised in P. antipodarum.

Another effect of EDCs is the imposex phenomenon in female marine gastropods (e.g. the dogwhelk Nucella lapillus and the netted whelk Nassarius reticulatus). Imposex is characterised by the development of male sex organs (penis and/or vas deferens) additionally to the complete female genital tract, but the underlying mechanism is not fully clarified and a matter of a current scientific debate.

Hence, the project aims on the identification and characterisation of possible target molecules for EDCs in P. antipodarum and of modes of imposex induction in N. lapillus and N. reticulatus.


  • Duft M, Schmitt C, Bachmann J, Brandelik C, Schulte-Oehlmann U, Oehlmann J (2007): Prosobranch snails as test organisms for the assessment of endocrine active chemicals - an overview and a guideline proposal for a reproduction test with the freshwater mudsnail Potamopyrgus antipodarum. Ecotoxicology 16, 169-182.
  • Oehlmann J, Di Benedetto P, Tillmann M, Duft M, Oetken M, Schulte-Oehlmann U (2007): Endocrine disruption in prosobranch molluscs: Evidence and ecological relevance. Ecotoxicology 16, 29-43.
  • Oehlmann, J Schulte-Oehlmann U, Kloas W, Jagnytsch O, Lutz I, Kusk KO, Wollenberger L, Santos EM, Paull GC, Van Look KJW, Tyler CR (2009): A critical analysis of the biological impacts of plasticizers on wildlife. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 364, 2047-2062.
  • Stange D, Horres R, Oehlmann, J (2009): The gene expression of the Potamopyrgus antipodarum estrogen receptor under estrogenic exposure. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. A 154, S34.

Project team:

Daniela Stange (stange(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de)
Agnes Sieratowicz (a.sieratowicz(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de)
Adriana Wigh (awigh(at)stud.uni-frankfurt.de)
Cornelia Geiß (conny.geiss(at)gmx.de)
Dr. Ulrike Schulte-Oehlmann (schulte-oehlmann(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de)
Prof. Dr. Jörg Oehlmann (oehlmann(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt
Department Aquatic Ecotoxicology
Siesmayerstr. 70
D-60054 Frankfurt am Main
phone ++ 49-69 79824900
fax ++ 49-69 79824748

Funded by
Hessian State Ministry for Science and Arts