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Relationship: 252


The title of the KER should clearly define the two KEs being considered and the sequential relationship between them (i.e., which is upstream and which is downstream). Consequently all KER titles take the form “upstream KE leads to downstream KE”.  More help

Reduction, Plasma 17beta-estradiol concentrations leads to Reduction, Vitellogenin synthesis in liver

Upstream event
Upstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help
Downstream event
Downstream event in the Key Event Relationship. On the KER page, clicking on the Event name under Upstream Relationship will bring the user to that individual KE page. More help

Key Event Relationship Overview

The utility of AOPs for regulatory application is defined, to a large extent, by the confidence and precision with which they facilitate extrapolation of data measured at low levels of biological organisation to predicted outcomes at higher levels of organisation and the extent to which they can link biological effect measurements to their specific causes. Within the AOP framework, the predictive relationships that facilitate extrapolation are represented by the KERs. Consequently, the overall WoE for an AOP is a reflection in part, of the level of confidence in the underlying series of KERs it encompasses. Therefore, describing the KERs in an AOP involves assembling and organising the types of information and evidence that defines the scientific basis for inferring the probable change in, or state of, a downstream KE from the known or measured state of an upstream KE. More help

AOPs Referencing Relationship

This table is automatically generated upon addition of a KER to an AOP. All of the AOPs that are linked to this KER will automatically be listed in this subsection. Clicking on the name of the AOP in the table will bring you to the individual page for that AOP. More help
AOP Name Adjacency Weight of Evidence Quantitative Understanding Point of Contact Author Status OECD Status
Aromatase inhibition leading to reproductive dysfunction adjacent High Moderate Dan Villeneuve (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
Androgen receptor agonism leading to reproductive dysfunction (in repeat-spawning fish) adjacent High Moderate Dan Villeneuve (send email) Open for citation & comment TFHA/WNT Endorsed
Prolyl hydroxylase inhibition leading to reproductive dysfunction via increased HIF1 heterodimer formation adjacent High Moderate Dalma Martinovic-Weigelt (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Unknown MIE leading to reproductive dysfunction via increased HIF-1alpha transcription adjacent Dalma Martinovic-Weigelt (send email) Under Development: Contributions and Comments Welcome
Embryonic Activation of the AHR leading to Reproductive failure, via epigenetic down-regulation of GnRHR adjacent High Moderate Jon Doering (send email) Under development: Not open for comment. Do not cite

Taxonomic Applicability

Select one or more structured terms that help to define the biological applicability domain of the KER. In general, this will be dictated by the more restrictive of the two KEs being linked together by the KER. Authors can indicate the relevant taxa for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 30-31 and 37-38 of User Handbook) More help
Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
fathead minnow Pimephales promelas Moderate NCBI

Sex Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant sex for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of the User Handbook). More help
Sex Evidence
Female High

Life Stage Applicability

Authors can indicate the relevant life stage for this KER in this subsection. The process is similar to what is described for KEs (see pages 31-32 of User Handbook). More help
Term Evidence
Adult, reproductively mature Not Specified

Key Event Relationship Description

Provide a brief, descriptive summation of the KER. While the title itself is fairly descriptive, this section can provide details that aren’t inherent in the description of the KEs themselves (see page 39 of the User Handbook). This description section can be viewed as providing the increased specificity in the nature of upstream perturbation (KEupstream) that leads to a particular downstream perturbation (KEdownstream), while allowing the KE descriptions to remain generalised so they can be linked to different AOPs. The description is also intended to provide a concise overview for readers who may want a brief summation, without needing to read through the detailed support for the relationship (covered below). Careful attention should be taken to avoid reference to other KEs that are not part of this KER, other KERs or other AOPs. This will ensure that the KER is modular and can be used by other AOPs. More help

See Plausibility below.

Evidence Supporting this KER

Assembly and description of the scientific evidence supporting KERs in an AOP is an important step in the AOP development process that sets the stage for overall assessment of the AOP (see pages 49-56 of the User Handbook). To do this, biological plausibility, empirical support, and the current quantitative understanding of the KER are evaluated with regard to the predictive relationships/associations between defined pairs of KEs as a basis for considering WoE (page 55 of User Handbook). In addition, uncertainties and inconsistencies are considered. More help

Updated 2017-03-17.

Biological Plausibility
Define, in free text, the biological rationale for a connection between KEupstream and KEdownstream. What are the structural or functional relationships between the KEs? For example, there is a functional relationship between an enzyme’s activity and the product of a reaction it catalyses. Supporting references should be included. However, it is recognised that there may be cases where the biological relationship between two KEs is very well established, to the extent that it is widely accepted and consistently supported by so much literature that it is unnecessary and impractical to cite the relevant primary literature. Citation of review articles or other secondary sources, like text books, may be reasonable in such cases. The primary intent is to provide scientifically credible support for the structural and/or functional relationship between the pair of KEs if one is known. The description of biological plausibility can also incorporate additional mechanistic details that help inform the relationship between KEs, this is useful when it is not practical/pragmatic to represent these details as separate KEs due to the difficulty or relative infrequency with which it is likely to be measured (see page 40 of the User Handbook for further information).   More help

Vitellogenin synthesis in fish is localized in the liver and is well documented to be regulated by estrogens via interaction with estrogen receptors (Tyler et al. 1996; Tyler and Sumpter 1996; Arukwe and Goksøyr 2003). The vitellogenin gene contains estrogen repsonsive elements in its promoter region and site directed mutagenesis has shown these to be essential for estrogen-dependent expression of vitellogenin (Chang et al. 1992; Teo et al. 1998). Liver is not regarded as a major site of E2 synthesis (Norris 2007), therefore the majority of E2 in liver comes from the circulation.

  • Estrogen regulates expression of the vitellogenin gene in the amphibian Xenopus laevis (Skipper and Hamilton, 1977).


Uncertainties and Inconsistencies
In addition to outlining the evidence supporting a particular linkage, it is also important to identify inconsistencies or uncertainties in the relationship. Additionally, while there are expected patterns of concordance that support a causal linkage between the KEs in the pair, it is also helpful to identify experimental details that may explain apparent deviations from the expected patterns of concordance. Identification of uncertainties and inconsistencies contribute to evaluation of the overall WoE supporting the AOPs that contain a given KER and to the identification of research gaps that warrant investigation (seep pages 41-42 of the User Handbook).Given that AOPs are intended to support regulatory applications, AOP developers should focus on those inconsistencies or gaps that would have a direct bearing or impact on the confidence in the KER and its use as a basis for inference or extrapolation in a regulatory setting. Uncertainties that may be of academic interest but would have little impact on regulatory application don’t need to be described. In general, this section details evidence that may raise questions regarding the overall validity and predictive utility of the KER (including consideration of both biological plausibility and empirical support). It also contributes along with several other elements to the overall evaluation of the WoE for the KER (see Section 4 of the User Handbook).  More help

Based on the limited set of studies available to date, there are no known inconsistencies.

Response-response Relationship
This subsection should be used to define sources of data that define the response-response relationships between the KEs. In particular, information regarding the general form of the relationship (e.g., linear, exponential, sigmoidal, threshold, etc.) should be captured if possible. If there are specific mathematical functions or computational models relevant to the KER in question that have been defined, those should also be cited and/or described where possible, along with information concerning the approximate range of certainty with which the state of the KEdownstream can be predicted based on the measured state of the KEupstream (i.e., can it be predicted within a factor of two, or within three orders of magnitude?). For example, a regression equation may reasonably describe the response-response relationship between the two KERs, but that relationship may have only been validated/tested in a single species under steady state exposure conditions. Those types of details would be useful to capture.  More help
This sub-section should be used to provide information regarding the approximate time-scale of the changes in KEdownstream relative to changes in KEupstream (i.e., do effects on KEdownstream lag those on KEupstream by seconds, minutes, hours, or days?). This can be useful information both in terms of modelling the KER, as well as for analyzing the critical or dominant paths through an AOP network (e.g., identification of an AO that could kill an organism in a matter of hours will generally be of higher priority than other potential AOs that take weeks or months to develop). Identification of time-scale can also aid the assessment of temporal concordance. For example, for a KER that operates on a time-scale of days, measurement of both KEs after just hours of exposure in a short-term experiment could lead to incorrect conclusions regarding dose-response or temporal concordance if the time-scale of the upstream to downstream transition was not considered. More help
Known modulating factors
This sub-section presents information regarding modulating factors/variables known to alter the shape of the response-response function that describes the quantitative relationship between the two KEs (for example, an iodine deficient diet causes a significant increase in the slope of the relationship; a particular genotype doubles the sensitivity of KEdownstream to changes in KEupstream). Information on these known modulating factors should be listed in this subsection, along with relevant information regarding the manner in which the modulating factor can be expected to alter the relationship (if known). Note, this section should focus on those modulating factors for which solid evidence supported by relevant data and literature is available. It should NOT list all possible/plausible modulating factors. In this regard, it is useful to bear in mind that many risk assessments conducted through conventional apical guideline testing-based approaches generally consider few if any modulating factors. More help
Known Feedforward/Feedback loops influencing this KER
This subsection should define whether there are known positive or negative feedback mechanisms involved and what is understood about their time-course and homeostatic limits? In some cases where feedback processes are measurable and causally linked to the outcome, they should be represented as KEs. However, in most cases these features are expected to predominantly influence the shape of the response-response, time-course, behaviours between selected KEs. For example, if a feedback loop acts as compensatory mechanism that aims to restore homeostasis following initial perturbation of a KE, the feedback loop will directly shape the response-response relationship between the KERs. Given interest in formally identifying these positive or negative feedback, it is recommended that a graphical annotation (page 44) indicating a positive or negative feedback loop is involved in a particular upstream to downstream KE transition (KER) be added to the graphical representation, and that details be provided in this subsection of the KER description (see pages 44-45 of the User Handbook).  More help

Domain of Applicability

As for the KEs, there is also a free-text section of the KER description that the developer can use to explain his/her rationale for the structured terms selected with regard to taxonomic, life stage, or sex applicability, or provide a more generalizable or nuanced description of the applicability domain than may be feasible using standardized terms. More help

Key enzymes needed to synthesize 17β-estradiol first appear in the common ancestor of amphioxus and vertebrates (Baker 2011). However, non-oviparous vertebrates do not require vitellogenin. Consequently, this KER is applicable to oviparous vertebrates.


List of the literature that was cited for this KER description using the appropriate format. Ideally, the list of references should conform, to the extent possible, with the OECD Style Guide (OECD, 2015). More help
  • Ankley GT, Bencic D, Cavallin JE, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Makynen EA, et al. 2009b. Dynamic nature of alterations in the endocrine system of fathead minnows exposed to the fungicide prochloraz. Toxicol Sci 112(2): 344-353.
  • Ankley GT, Bencic DC, Cavallin JE, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Makynen EA, et al. 2009a. Dynamic nature of alterations in the endocrine system of fathead minnows exposed to the fungicide prochloraz. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology 112(2): 344-353.
  • Ankley GT, Miller DH, Jensen KM, Villeneuve DL, Martinovic D. 2008. Relationship of plasma sex steroid concentrations in female fathead minnows to reproductive success and population status. Aquatic toxicology 88(1): 69-74.
  • Arukwe A, Goksøyr A. 2003. Eggshell and egg yolk proteins in fish: hepatic proteins for the next generation: oogenetic, population, and evolutionary implications of endocrine disruption. Comparative Hepatology 2(4): 1-21.
  • Chang TC, Nardulli AM, Lew D, and Shapiro, DJ. 1992. The role of estrogen response elements in expression of the Xenopus laevis vitellogenin B1 gene. Molecular Endocrinology 6:3, 346-354\
  • Ekman DR, Villeneuve DL, Teng Q, Ralston-Hooper KJ, Martinovic-Weigelt D, Kahl MD, et al. 2011. Use of gene expression, biochemical and metabolite profiles to enhance exposure and effects assessment of the model androgen 17beta-trenbolone in fish. Environmental toxicology and chemistry / SETAC 30(2): 319-329.
  • Iguchi T, Irie F, Urushitani H, Tooi O, Kawashima Y, Roberts M, et al. 2006. Availability of in vitro vitellogenin assay for screening of estrogenic and anti-estrogenic activities of environmental chemicals. Environ Sci 13(3): 161-183.
  • Li Z, Kroll KJ, Jensen KM, Villeneuve DL, Ankley GT, Brian JV, et al. 2011a. A computational model of the hypothalamic: pituitary: gonadal axis in female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) exposed to 17alpha-ethynylestradiol and 17beta-trenbolone. BMC systems biology 5: 63.
  • Murphy CA, Rose KA, Rahman MS, Thomas P. 2009. Testing and applying a fish vitellogenesis model to evaluate laboratory and field biomarkers of endocrine disruption in Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus) exposed to hypoxia. Environmental toxicology and chemistry / SETAC 28(6): 1288-1303.
  • Murphy CA, Rose KA, Thomas P. 2005. Modeling vitellogenesis in female fish exposed to environmental stressors: predicting the effects of endocrine disturbance due to exposure to a PCB mixture and cadmium. Reproductive toxicology 19(3): 395-409.
  • Navas JM, Segner H. 2006. Vitellogenin synthesis in primary cultures of fish liver cells as endpoint for in vitro screening of the (anti)estrogenic activity of chemical substances. Aquat Toxicol 80(1): 1-22.
  • Norris DO. 2007. Vertebrate Endocrinology. Fourth ed. New York: Academic Press.
  • Schultz IR, Orner G, Merdink JL, Skillman A. 2001. Dose-response relationships and pharmacokinetics of vitellogenin in rainbow trout after intravascular administration of 17alpha-ethynylestradiol. Aquatic toxicology 51(3): 305-318.
  • Skipper JK, Hamilton TH. 1977. Regulation by estrogen of the vitellogenin gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 74:2384-2388.
  • Skolness SY, Durhan EJ, Garcia-Reyero N, Jensen KM, Kahl MD, Makynen EA, et al. 2011. Effects of a short-term exposure to the fungicide prochloraz on endocrine function and gene expression in female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Aquat Toxicol 103(3-4): 170-178.
  • Sun L, Wen L, Shao X, Qian H, Jin Y, Liu W, et al. 2010. Screening of chemicals with anti-estrogenic activity using in vitro and in vivo vitellogenin induction responses in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Chemosphere 78(7): 793-799.
  • Teo BY, Tan NS, Lim EH, Lam TJ, Ding JL. A novel piscine vitellogenin gene: structural and functional analyses of estrogen-inducible promoter. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 1998 Nov 25;146(1-2):103-20. PubMed PMID: 10022768.
  • Tyler C, Sumpter J. 1996. Oocyte growth and development in teleosts. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 6: 287-318.
  • Tyler C, van der Eerden B, Jobling S, Panter G, Sumpter J. 1996. Measurement of vitellogenin, a biomarker for exposure to oestrogenic chemicals, in a wide variety of cyprinid fish. Journal of Comparative Physiology and Biology 166: 418-426.
  • Villeneuve DL, Breen M, Bencic DC, Cavallin JE, Jensen KM, Makynen EA, et al. 2013. Developing Predictive Approaches to Characterize Adaptive Responses of the Reproductive Endocrine Axis to Aromatase Inhibition: I. Data Generation in a Small Fish Model. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology.
  • Villeneuve DL, Mueller ND, Martinovic D, Makynen EA, Kahl MD, Jensen KM, et al. 2009. Direct effects, compensation, and recovery in female fathead minnows exposed to a model aromatase inhibitor. Environ Health Perspect 117(4): 624-631.