Cefic-lri Programme | European Chemical Industry Council

ECO35: Interference of hepatotoxicity with endocrine activity in fish

Principal Investigator

Prof. Dr. Thomas Braunbeck
Aquatic Ecology and Toxicology Group
Center for Organismal Studies
University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 504
D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany
Tel: +49 6221 545668


Prof. Dr. Helmut Segner, Vetsuisse Faculty Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health University of Berne, Bern, CH, helmut.segner@vetsuisse.unibe.ch
Dr. Henrik Holbech, Associate Prof. Dr., Department of Biology University of South Denmark at Odense, DK, hol@biology.sdu.dk
Dr. Lennart Weltje, BASF SE, Limburgerhof, DE, lennart.weltje@basf.com


The project proposed is driven by the hypothesis that hepatotoxicity may positively or negatively interfere with vitellogenin production, which is used as a key marker of endocrine activity in current OECD test guidelines 229, 230 and 234 and the proposed medaka extended one-generation test.

The purpose of the project is (1) to identify scenarios, where liver toxicity may affect the induction, synthesis and secretion of vitellogenin from hepatocytes in small fish models (preferentially zebrafish, but potentially also fathead minnow and medaka [1]). For this end, (2) the project will develop a set of diagnostic tools to distinguish primarily endocrine effects from secondary effects in consequence of liver toxicity. For selected modes of action, (3) Adverse Outcome Pathways (AOP) will be developed for liver toxicity-mediated modulation of the vitellogenin biomarker in fish.

[1] To be discussed with LRI representatives; all species available at Heidelberg University.

The proposal will differentiate between the following scenarios:

  1. impaired vitellogenin production in consequence of generalized degenerative processes of the liver (including VTG modulation by excessive test concentrations);
  2. decreased vitellogenin production as a consequence of an impairment of general liver cell functionality (e.g. via reduction of protein synthesis capacities, disturbances of equilibrated lipoprotein synthesis, or energy depletion by, e.g. uncouplers).

The final deliverables of the project are:

  • Prove of principle that chemicals can modulate the endocrine endpoint “VTG” through a non-endocrine MOA ;
  • a diagnostic toolbox which enables the discrimination between endocrine- and non-endocrine-mediated changes of the VTG biomarker in fish;
  • AoPs for VTG-modulating chemicals with non-endocrine MOA.

Related Publications


Lisa Baumann. Interference of hepatotoxicity with endocrine activity in fish. SETAC Europe 28th Annual Meeting, May 2018, Rome, Italy


Steve Ayobahan, Elke Muth-Kohne, Matthias Teigeler, Matthias Kotthoff, Stefan Kalkhof, Christoph Schäfers, Henner Hollert. Development of an -omics based detection tool to discriminate between endocrine-mediated activity and systemic toxicity of substances. SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting, May 2016, Nantes, France.

Thomas Braunbeck, Helmut Segner, Henrik Holbech, Lennart Weltje, Lisa Baumann. Interference of hepatotoxicity with endocrine activity in fish. 18th Annual CEFIC-LRI Workshop, November 2016, Brussels, Belgium.

Lisa Baumann, Ann-Kathrin Lörracher, Olga Lityagina, Henrik Holbech, Lennart Weltje, Helmut Segner, Thomas Braunbeck. Acetaminophen induces sex- and life-stage dependent changes in endocrine- and hepatotoxicity-related processes in zebrafish (Danio rerio). SETAC German Language Branch Meeting, November 2017, Neustadt, Germany.

Timeline: February 2016 > February 2018

LRI funding: € 254 052

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