Regenerative phenomena, which have the advantage of reproducing developmental processes in the adult organism, are very sensitive to environmental stress and represent stages that can be monitored for damage at the whole-organism, cellular and molecular levels. Some persistent and ubiquitous pollutants, which can affect the natural environment because of their bioaccumulation in organisms, exert their effects by acting as ‘endocrine disrupters’. In this respect, they can cause dysfunction in steroid hormone production/metabolism and activity by their dramatic effects on gene expression, reproductive competence and growth. The aim of our present research was to assess the impact of such compounds on adult echinoderm reproductive physiology with particular reference to regeneration potential. It is known that vertebrate-type steroids are synthesized by echinoderms and play a role in the control of growth and reproduction. Our experimental model is the crinoid Antedon mediterranea, selected on the basis of its previously explored regenerative capabilities at the level of the arms. The regeneration response, analyzed at the tissue and cellular levels using both light and electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry, was employed to monitor the effects of exposure to persistent endocrine disrupter micropollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by means of laboratory tests performed under controlled conditions in terms of environmental variables and contamination levels. Our results indicate that exposure to endocrine disrupter compounds such as PCBs can induce anomalies in regeneration times, morphology and developmental mechanisms that can be interpreted in the light of significant dysfunctions in the endocrine mechanisms controlling regenerative development.

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