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Popular weed killer feminizes native leopard frogs across Midwest

veloped female egg cells (oocytes) in their testes, becoming hermaphrodites. In one experiment, more than a third of the male frogs exposed to 0.1 ppb atrazine showed under-developed testes.

Details of the experiment are reported in the November issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

"The testes in these male frogs are obviously not functioning normally, because if they were, egg cells would not be able to grow in them," Hayes said. "Some testes are so invaded by ovary cells it looks like they are converted, and technically, they could be considered ovaries."

Hayes suspects that atrazine boosts the activity of an enzyme, aromatase, that converts male sex hormones, or androgens, to female hormones, or estrogens. The lowered androgens and increased estrogens allow egg cells to grow within the testes, which is normally impossible. Atrazine's effects on aromatase have been demonstrated in fish, reptiles and mammals, but not yet in amphibians.

Atrazine is so widespread that it can be found far from agricultural areas and even in rainwater and snow. At one site in Nebraska, Hayes found that rain and tap water contained enough atrazine to disrupt normal male development in amphibians.

"The current data raise concern about the effects of atrazine on amphibians in general and the potential role of atrazine and other endocrine-disrupting pesticides in amphibian declines," the authors wrote in their EHP article.

The leopard frog studies are supported by various private grants and by the National Science Foundation. Hayes' coauthors are former or current undergraduate students - Kelly Haston, Mable Tsui and Cathryn Haeffele - postdoctoral fellow Anhthu Hoang and research associate Aaron Vonk.

Hayes is a member of UC Berkeley's Health Sciences Initiative, a broad-based effort to bring the physical and biological sciences together to tackle health problems of the 21st century.


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Contact: Robert Sanders
rls@pa.urel.berkeley.edu
510-643-6998
University of California - Berkeley
30-Oct-2002


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