We looked for evidence for the hypothesis that exposure of female birds to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) results in alteration of blood steroid hormone concentrations and alters subsequent hormone transfer of steroids to eggs. Eggs of three-egg clutches were collected from a PCB-exposed common tern (Sterna hirundo) colony (Ram Island, Buzzards Bay, MA, USA) and from a relatively clean colony (Bodkin Island, Chesapeake Bay, MD, USA), and were analyzed for concentrations of organochlorine contaminants and steroid hormones (17 beta estradiol, 5 alpha dihydrotestosterone, testosterone and androstenedione). There was no relationship between total PCBs and steroid concentrations considering all eggs together, considering eggs of different laying order or considering differences between sequentially laid eggs in a clutch. Similarly, concentrations of di and trichlorinated biphenyls and steroids in eggs were not related. The concentrations of PCBs, mercury and selenium were below estimated thresholds for toxicity to embryos. Maternal steroids, except estradiol, were present in yolk of all eggs, with increasing concentrations in the second and third eggs laid. Our data provided no evidence for a maternal toxicological event that might alter the amount of maternal steroid hormone transferred to eggs.
Additional Publication Details
Maternal steroids and contaminants in common tern eggs: a mechanism of endocrine disruption?
Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part C: Toxicology & Pharmacology