Ankley GT, Berninger JP, Blackwell BR, Cavallin JE, Collette TW, Ekman DR, Fay KA, Feifarek DJ, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Mosley JD, Poole ST, Randolph EC, Rearick D, Schroeder AL, Swintek J, Villeneuve DL. 2021. Pathway-based approaches for assessing biological hazards of complex mixtures of contaminants: A case study in the Maumee River. Environ Toxicol Chem 40:1090–1122.
Assessment of ecological risks of chemicals in the field usually involves complex mixtures of known and unknown compounds. We describe the use of pathway-based chemical and biological approaches to assess the risk of chemical mixtures in the Maumee River (OH, USA), which receives a variety of agricultural and urban inputs. Fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were deployed in cages for 4 d at a gradient of sites along the river and adjoining tributaries in 2012 and during 2 periods (April and June) in 2016, in conjunction with an automated system to collect composite water samples. More than 100 industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and pesticides were detected in water at some of the study sites, with the greatest number typically found near domestic wastewater treatment plants. In 2016, there was an increase in concentrations of several herbicides from April to June at upstream agricultural sites. A comparison of chemical concentrations in site water with single chemical data from vitro high-throughput screening (HTS) assays suggested the potential for perturbation of multiple biological pathways, including several associated with induction or inhibition of different cytochrome P450 (CYP) isozymes. This was consistent with direct effects of water extracts in an HTS assay and induction of hepatic CYPs in caged fish. Targeted in vitro assays and measurements in the caged fish suggested minimal effects on endocrine function (e.g., estrogenicity). A nontargeted mass spectroscopy-based analysis suggested that hepatic endogenous metabolite profiles in caged fish covaried strongly with the occurrence of pesticides and pesticide degradates. These studies demonstrate the application of an integrated suite of measurements to help understand the effects of complex chemical mixtures in the field. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:1098–1122. © 2020 SETAC. This article has been contributed to by US Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.