Estrogenicity profile and estrogenic compounds determined in river sediments by chemical analysis, ELISA and yeast assays

Luigi Viganò, Emilio Benfenati, Anne van Cauwenberge, Janne K. Eidem, Claudio Erratico, Anders Goksøyr, Werner Kloas, Silvia Maggioni, Alberta Mandich, Ralph Urbatzka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An effects-directed strategy was applied to bed sediments of a polluted tributary in order to isolate and identify the major estrogenic chemicals it discharges into the River Po, the principal Italian watercourse. Sediment extract was concentrated by solid phase extraction and then fractioned into 10 fractions by reversed phase high performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC). Estrogenic activity of whole extract and fractions were determined using a recombinant yeast assay containing the human estrogen receptor (YES). The 10 fractions and whole extract were analysed for target compounds, e.g. estrone (E1), 17β-estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), 4-nonylphenol (NP), 4-tert-octylphenol (t-OP), bisphenol A (BPA), using both liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and non-competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). The YES assay determined high estrogenic activity in whole sediment (15.6 ng/g EE2 equivalents), and positive results for fractions nr 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8. E1, E3 and NP were the main estrogenic chemicals, however, other unidentified compounds contributed to sediment estrogenicity, particularly for polar fractions nr 1 and 2. A GC-MS screening performed in scan mode identified other potential contributors such as phthalates (DBP, BBP), and OP isomers. A next sampling campaign extended to other tributaries and receiving stretches of the River Po confirmed E1, E3 and NP as major estrogenic chemicals potentially threatening other sites of the main river. In general, target compound ELISAs have been shown to be suitable tools for a rapid screening of wide areas or large numbers of environmental samples for estrogenic risk. The potential for interferences suggests however to use cautiously the concentration values obtained from some of the immunoassays.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1089
Number of pages12
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2008


  • Estrogenic pollutants
  • HPLC fractionation
  • River Po
  • River sediment
  • YES assay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Chemistry(all)


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