SCNU Environmental Research Institute, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Chemical Pollution and Environmental Safety & MOE Key Laboratory of Theoretical Chemistry of Environment, South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510006, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Dydrogesterone (DDG) is a synthetic progestin widely used in numerous gynecological diseases. DDG has been shown to disturb fish reproduction, however, the mechanism is still unclear. Here we studied the histological changes and differences of metabolome between exposed and control fish gonads after exposure of zebrafish (Danio rerio) embryos to 2.8, 27.6, and 289.8 ng/L DDG until sexual maturity for a total of 140 days. Dydrogesterone exposure led to male-biased zebrafish sex ratios. Histological examination revealed that DDG induced postovulatory follicles and atretic follicles in the ovary of the female fish. Postovulatory follicles indicated the occurrence of ovulation. DDG also increased spermatids and spermatozoa in the male fish testis, suggesting promotion of spermatogenesis. Ovarian metabolome showed that DDG increased the concentrations of free amino acids, urea, putrescine, free fatty acids, acylcarnitines, lysophospholipids, and other metabolites catabolized from phospholipids. Most of these metabolites are biodegradation products of proteins and lipids, suggesting the existence of ovulated oocytes over-ripening. Further, DDG upregulated arachidonic acid (AA) and its 5‑lipoxygenase (5-LOX) metabolites 5‑oxo‑6,8,11,14‑eicosatetraenoic acid (5-oxo-ETE) in the ovary, which could lead to suppression of AA cyclooxygenase (COX) metabolite prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α). It is believed that AA induced oocyte maturation, while 5-oxo-ETE and related metabolites in purinergic signaling promoted ovulation. Whereas, the suppression of PGF2α production might block spawning and damaged follicular tissue digestion, which explained the oocytes over-ripening and atretic follicles in the treated ovary. Overall, our results suggested that DDG exposure induced zebrafish oocyte maturation and ovulation but led to oocytes over-ripening via the AA metabolic pathway and purinergic signaling.