Development of Receptor- to Population-Level Analytical Tools for Assessing Endocrine Disruptor Exposure in Wastewater-Impacted Estuarine Systems

EPA Grant Number: R832737
Title: Development of Receptor- to Population-Level Analytical Tools for Assessing Endocrine Disruptor Exposure in Wastewater-Impacted Estuarine Systems
Investigators: Ferguson, P. Lee , Chandler, G. Thomas
Institution: University of South Carolina at Columbia
EPA Project Officer: McOliver, Cynthia
Project Period: January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2009 (Extended to December 31, 2010)
Project Amount: $526,028
RFA: Exposure Measurement Tools for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in Mixtures (2005) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Endocrine Disruptors , Health , Safer Chemicals


This project is aimed at the production of new tools for identifying and quantifying endocrine-active contaminants in complex environmental mixtures and for defining endocrine disruptor exposure in sensitive estuarine systems.  The work complements and extends previous and current research on development of targeted, quantitative analytical methods and bioassays for specific classes of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in environmental samples.  The specific objectives of the proposed research are to:

  1. Develop nuclear hormone receptor-affinity extraction techniques as tools for isolating (EDCs) from complex wastewater mixtures.
  2. Apply these methods in combination with high performance mass spectrometry for activity-directed analysis of EDCs in wastewater and estuarine receiving waters on the SC coast.
  3. Utilize sensitive vertebrate (zebrafish) and invertebrate (copepod) EDC-exposure laboratory bioassays to link exposure measurements (above) to biological effects.
  4. Apply novel biomolecular endpoints to assess EDC exposure in field populations of sensitive meiobenthic invertebrates in wastewater-impacted estuarine environments.


Our research plan will address these objectives through development of novel bioanalytical methods and application of bioassays already in current use by the investigators.  Specifically, we will utilize commercially-available (estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone) and custom (ecdysone/ultraspiracle) recombinant nuclear hormone receptors to construct bioaffinity-extraction columns for identifying, concentrating and purifying receptor-binding EDCs from two important wastewater discharge regimes impacting the SC coast (surface-water discharge and land-application).  Isolates will then be analyzed using HPLC-MS/MS (quadrupole/time-of-flight and triple quadrupole) and GC-MS for both target (e.g. estrogens, alkylphenols, hydroxylated PCBs and bisacylhydrazine insecticides) and non-target EDCs.  In vivo activity of receptor-isolated EDCs will then be examined by sensitive laboratory endocrine assays, including vitellogenesis in male fish and copepods, and population/molecular endpoints in copepods, in order to provide a link between measured EDCs and biological effects.  Finally, as a field validation of analytical and lab bioassay results, we will utilize biomolecular endpoints (ecdysteroid and lipovitellin titres) to assay EDC exposure in field populations of estuarine meiobenthic copepods proximal to a coastal golf course receiving wastewater irrigation.

Expected Results:

The proposed work will, for the first time, provide activity-based analytical tools for assessing potential EDC exposure in complex environmental mixtures.  An important component of our proposed work is the linkage between mechanistic analytical methods (defining potential exposure) and sensitive laboratory and field bioassays (defining actual exposure).  Further, our focus on both vertebrate (estrogen, androgen, and thyroid) and invertebrate (ecdysteroid) EDC pathways will provide the scientific community with a broad set of tools for performing holistic studies of endocrine disruption potential in complex mixtures.  Finally, our focus on wastewater-impacted salt-marsh systems is novel and will generate new scientific knowledge related to potential EDC exposure in these environments.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 10 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

environmental chemistry, emerging contaminants, estuary, marine,, Scientific Discipline, Health, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Health Risk Assessment, Chemicals, Risk Assessments, Environmental Monitoring, chemical exposure, coastal ecosystem, wastewater, endocrine disrupting chemicals, rapid detection, bioavailability, chemical mixtures, endocrine disruptors, human exposure, deconvolution technique, biomarker based exposure inference, human health risk

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2006 Progress Report
  • 2007 Progress Report
  • 2008 Progress Report
  • 2009
  • Final Report