A number of freshwater lakes and reclaimed agricultural sites in Central Florida have been the receiving waters for agrochemical and municipal runoff. One of these sites, Lake Apopka, is also a eutrophic system that has been the focus of several case studies reporting altered reproductive activity linked to bioaccumulation of persistent organochlorine chemicals in aquatic species. The present study was initiated to determine if brown bullheads (Ameriurus nebulosus) from the north marsh of Lake Apopka (Lake Apopka Marsh) exhibit an altered capacity to detoxify environmental chemicals through hepatic glutathione S-transferase (GST)-mediated conjugation as compared with bullheads from a nearby reference site (Lake Woodruff). We also compared plasma sex hormone concentrations (testosterone, 17-?? estradiol, and 11 keto-testosterone) in bullheads from the two sites. Female bullheads from Lake Apopka had 40% lower initial rate GST conjugative activity toward 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB), 50% lower activity towards p-nitrobutyl chloride (NBC), 33% lower activity toward ethacrynic acid (ECA), and 43% lower activity toward ??5-androstene-3,17-dione (??5-ADI), as compared with female bullheads from Lake Woodruff. Enzyme kinetic analyses demonstrated that female bullheads from Lake Apopka had lower GST-catalyzed CDNB clearance than did female Lake Woodruff bullheads. Western blotting studies of bullhead liver cytosolic proteins demonstrated that the reduced GST catalytic activities in female Lake Apopka bullheads were accompanied by lower expression of hepatic GST protein. No site differences were observed with respect to GST activities or GST protein expression in male bullheads. Female Lake Apopka bullheads also had elevated concentrations of plasma androgens (testosterone and 11-ketotestosterone) as compared with females from Lake Woodruff. In contrast, male Lake Apopka bullheads had elevated levels of plasma estrogen but similar levels of androgens as compared with male bullheads from Lake Woodruff. Collectively, our studies indicate the presence of reduced GST protein expression, reduced GST conjugative capacity and altered sex steroid homeostasis in female bullheads from a contaminated field site in Central Florida. The implications of these physiological alterations in terms of pollutant biotransformation and reproduction are discussed. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.