Professor John P Sumpter
Professor in Ecotoxicology
I head a research group focussed on chemicals in the aquatic environment, and their effects on fish. I discovered endocrine disruption in fish, caused by estrogenic chemicals entering rivers in effluents from sewage treatment works. My research group currently consists of 3 post-doctoral fellows and four Ph.D. students. Our main focus has broadened from just estrogenic chemicals, and now includes other human pharmaceuticals present in rivers, such as beta-blockers, other steroid hormones (e.g. progestogens, glucocorticoids), and anti-cancer drugs. Our research ranges from detailed molecular studies of the mechanisms of action of these chemicals through to ecological studies on fish populations.
- 1973: First-class Honours Degree in Zoology/Marine Zoology from University College of North Wales, Bangor.
- 1977: PhD from University College of North Wales, Bangor.
- 1987: Elected Fellow of the Institute of Biology.
- 1991: Awarded DSc from University of Wales
- 2004: Made ‘Distinguished Professor’ of Brunel University
- 1976-78: Post-doctoral Fellow at University College of North Wales, Bangor.
- 1978-87: Lecturer in Applied Biology, Brunel University.
- 1987-91: Reader in Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Brunel University.
- 1991-2005: Professor in Department of Biology and Biochemistry, Brunel University, and Head of the Ecotoxicology Research Group.
- 2001-03: Head of Department of Biological Sciences, Brunel University
- 2004: Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences, Brunel University
- 2005-present: Professor in Institute for the Environment, Brunel University
- 2007-2011: Head of Institute for the Environment, Brunel University.
When I came to Brunel University in 1978, the University had a very low research profile; only a few staff were active in research. Over the next twenty years, I built up a large research group, consisting of twenty staff at its peak.
My research can be broken down into two related, though somewhat separate, fields. One, which I began with my PhD, and have continued ever since, is concerned with the hormonal control of fish reproduction (and, to a lesser extent, stress). The other is concerned with endocrine disruption; it is in this area that I now concentrate most of my efforts, and for which I have an international reputation.
Membership of Learned Societies
- Society for Experimental Biology
- The Fisheries Society of the British Isles
- European Society for Comparative Endocrinology
- Society for the Study of Fertility
- Society for Endocrinology
- Society for the Study of Reproduction
I have delivered talks at meetings organised by all of these societies, and at many other national and international meetings
Major Research Grants Awarded
- Royal Society: Scientific investigation grant of £4,652 for the purchase of an automatic gamma-counter.
- SERC: £30,430 from 1 October 1980 until 30 September 1983 for a study entitled ‘The characterization and physiological roles of peptides derived from pro-opiomelanocortin in fishes’ (in collaboration with Dr P J Lowry, St Bartholomew’s Hospital).
- MAFF: £18,050 from 1 January 1981 until 31 March 1984 for a study entitled ‘The purification, characterization and physiological roles of salmonid gonadotrophin.’
- SERC: £39,340 from 1 October 1984 until 31 September 1987 for a study entitled ‘Ovarian uptake of vitellogenin in the Rainbow Trout’ in collaboration with Dr N R Bromage, University of Aston).
- Royal Society: £8,520 from 1 May 1984 until 31 December 1984 from the Anglo-Canadian exchange scheme to enable me to spend nine months on sabbatical leave in the laboratory of Dr E M Donaldson in Vancouver.
- SERC: £18,060 from 1 January 1987 to 31 December 1987 for a study entitled ‘Hormonal control of growth and sea-water adaptation in rainbow trout’ (in collaboration with Dr Vic Bye, MAFF, Lowestoft, though he was not formally named on the grant).
- MAFF: £37,000 from 1 December 1986 to 31 March 1987 for a study entitled “The effects of environmental stress on the physiology of growth in trout”. (Awarded jointly to Dr A D Pickering, Freshwater Biological Association, Windermere, and myself).
- Department of the £83,142 from 1 January 1988 to 30 June 1990 for a study entitled “Effects of Environment: trace organics on coarse fish.
- MAFF: £23,508 from 1 January 1989 to 31 December 1989 for a study entitled “The induction and metabolic demands of vitellogenin synthesis in carp”.
- EC: £60,000 from 1 June 1990 to 31 May 1992 from the Fisheries Directorate to support a French Post-doctoral Fellow.
- Department of the £146,025 from 1 October 1991 to 31 March 1995 for a study entitled “Effects of Environment: trace organics on coarse fish: Phase 2”.
- AFRC: £98,000 from 1 September 1991 to 31 August 1994 for a study entitled "Determination of the physiological function, or functions, of somatolactin, a new member of the growth hormone/prolactin family in trout”.
- MAFF: £65,597 from 1 June 1992 to 31 May 1995 for a field study of the effects of oestrogens in effluent on fish.
- EC: £130,000 from 1 November 1993 to 31 October 1996 for a study entitled “Egg quality determinants of teleost fish”.
- NRA: £142,916 from 1 December 1993 to 31 March 1997 for a study entitled “Identification of estrogenic substances in STW effluent”.
- NERC: £138,418 from 1 March 1994 to 28 February 1997 for a study entitled “Effects of alkylphenols and related chemicals on gonad development, sex determination, and gamete quality of trout”.
- BBSRC: £57,540 from 1 September 1994 to 31 August 1995 for a study entitled “Studies of somatolactin in fish and higher vertebrates”.
- BBSRC: £127,892 from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1997 for a study entitled “Molecular characterization of the vitellogenin receptor and the dynamics of its expression”, (with Dr C R Tyler).
- ECETOC: £165,000 from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 1998 for studies on the oestrogenic properties of chemicals.
- European Union: 97,622 ECU for a study from 1 January 1995 to 31 December 1996 for a study entitled “Molecular characterization of the vitellogenin receptor and control of its expression”.
- NERC: £250,000 from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 2000 for a study entitled “Oestrogenic chemicals in the aquatic environment and their effects on fish”.
- NERC: £75,283 from 1 October 1995 to 30 September 1997 for a study entitled “Oestrogenic activity of phthalates”.
- Brunel University: £200,000 from 1 September 1995 to 31 August 2000, as matching funds to complement the NERC grant of £250,000 (see above).
- European Union: 90,000 ECU from 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1998 for a study entitled “Male reproductive health and environmental chemicals” (part of a large project).
- European Union: 105,000 ECU from 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1999, for a study entitled “Environmental halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons and estrogens: mechanism of action, interactions, and test-system development” (part of a large project).
- Wellcome Trust: £58,038 from 1 September 1996 to 31 August 1999 for a study entitled “Effects of exposure to oestrogenic xenobiotics during early development on the expression of genes controlling sexual development” (with Drs Tyler and Rand-Weaver).
- Environment Agency: £84,000 from 1 October 1996 to 30 September 1999 for the support of two studentships in the area of endocrine disruption (with Dr Tyler)
- An industrial Company: £79,400 from 1 August 1996 to 31 July 1998 for a study of some industrial chemicals.
- European Union £78,540 from 1 January 1998 to 31 December 1999 for a study entitled 'Do environmental estrogens (EEs) disrupt the neuro-endocrine regulation of reproduction in fish?'
- Dept of Environment: £60,000 from 1 February 1998 to 31 January 2000 for a study entitled Transport and the "Endocrine disruption in the gudgeon". (with Dr Tyler). Regions
- NERC: £186,145 from 1 July 1998 to 30 June 2001 for a study entitled "Reproductive capabilities of wild intersex fish" (with Dr C Tyler).
- HEFCE: £51,000 (plus matching funds from Brunel University) to refurbish a laboratory.
- Brunel University: £68,000 to establish a Fish Ecotoxicology Unit
- BBSRC: £148,752 from 1 June 1998 to 31 May 2001 for a study entitled "Molecular characterization and developmental expression of enzymes mediating yolk processing (with Dr C Tyler).
- CEFIC (the European Chemicals Industries £122,195 from 1 September 1998 to 31 August 2000 for a study entitled ") An ecological study to assess Bisphenol-A as an environmental oestrogen."
- EMSG (an industry consortium £185,906 from 1 October 1998 to 30 September 2003 for a study) “Joint programme on endocrine disruptors in the aquatic environment”.
- An industrial Company: £39,700 for one year from 16 November 1998 for a study entitled “Endocrine activity of landfill leachate”.
- European Union: £120,000 from 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2001 for a study entitled “Community Programme of research on environmental hormones and endocrine disruptors” (COMPREHEND).
- DETR: £132,048 from 1.8.2001-31.2.2004 for a study entitled “A search for evidence of endocrine disruption in top predator fish”.
- European Union: £372,000 (538,903 Euros) from 1.12.01 to 30.11.04, for a study entitled “Analyzing combination effects of oestrogenic chemicals. This is part of a larger project (ACE), total budget 2.4 million Euros, which I co-ordinate.
- European Union: £208,000 (322,960 Euros) from 1.12.02 to 30.11.06 for a study entitled “Endocrine Disruptors: Exploring novel endpoints, exposure, low dose and mixture effects in human, aquatic wildlife and laboratory animals”. This was part of a much larger project (EDEN), which has a total budget of 10.8 million Euros.
- AstraZeneca/Pfizer: £92,610 from 1.3.04 to 28.2.06 for a study entitled “Physiological Responses of Fish to Pharmaceuticals”.
- European Union: About £180,000 (290,000 Euros) from 1.9.04 to 31.8.07 for a study entitled “Environmental Risk Assessment of Pharmaceuticals”. This was part of a large project (ERAPharm).
- NERC: £237,517 from 1.1.06 to 31.12.09 for a study entitled “Confounding Factors in the Risk Assessment of mixtures of estrogenic chemicals”
- DEFRA: £323,400 from 1.1.06 to 31.12.08 for a study entitled “Influence of endocrine disruption on reproduction in roach”.
- AstraZeneca: £50,540 from 1.3.06 to 28.2.07 for a continuation of the study “Physiological Responses of Fish to Pharmaceuticals”.
- GlaxoSmithKline (GSK): £100,000 from 1.5.07 to 30.4.2010 for a project entitled “Research on pharmaceuticals in the environment”
- DEFRA: £230,000 from 1.11.08 to 31.10.10 for a study entitled “Intelligent Ecotoxicology: progestogens as a test case”.
- CEFAS: £64,000 from 1/1/09 to 31/12/09 for a study entitled “Validating a sexual development test using the 3-spined stickleback”.
Total value of Grants raised while at Brunel: approximately £5million.
Collaboration with Industry
Much of the research done by the Ecotoxicology Research Group is of considerable interest and relevance to many sectors of industry. This is particularly true of our work on persistent man-made chemicals in the environment which have the ability to mimic endogenous hormones, and thus (potentially) disrupt endocrine-mediated physiological processes, such as reproduction.
Some of the Group’s work is funded by industry, both via collective organisations such as the European Centre for the Ecotoxicology and Toxicology of Chemicals (ECETOC) and by industrial companies (including a number of the world’s largest multinationals). We also have a major ongoing collaboration with AstraZeneca, which links two of their main laboratories (the Environment Laboratory in Brixham and the Central Toxicology Laboratory at Alderley Edge) with my Ecotoxicology Research Group at Brunel.
My first PhD student was awarded her degree in 1983. Since then, I have successfully supervised a further 25 full-time PhD students, plus two external PhD students, and 3 M.Phil. students. Presently, I am supervising 1 M.Phil. student, 2 PhD students and 4 post-doctoral fellows.
- Ms Katie Aoki
- Mr Luigi Margiotta-Casaluci
- Mr Kugathas Subramaniam
I have been a University teacher since 1978, when I came to Brunel University. I attended an induction course, which had a strong emphasis on teaching, upon arrival. Since then, I have delivered between 40 and 70 lectures each year, held seminars (about 10 per year), and designed and run practical classes to complement my lecture courses (between 8 and 20 practicals per year). Student feedback, obtained primarily by anonymous questionnaires, has been collected each year, and used to change and improve the courses in subsequent years. In general, this feedback has been very positive.
Until recently, my main teaching had covered the area of Human and Animal Physiology (i.e. respiration, circulation, endocrinology, reproduction, etc.). For over 15 years, I taught a final-year course in Animal Reproduction, but more recently, as my research interests in environmental science grew, I replaced it with courses in Ecotoxicology, Biodiversity and Environmental Risk Assessment. These courses have been very well received by students, primarily, I think, because of the topicality of the subjects. I have introduced a number of modern teaching approaches into these courses, including group project work and presentations.
I also supervised between 3 and 6 final-year research projects each year, for twenty-five years. Some of the students have produced results which have been included in research papers (and hence the students have been authors), and many have gone on to do research (usually as PhD students) in the areas covered by their projects. I currently supervise students doing their MSc dissertations.
Between 1996 and 2001, I chaired the Teaching Policy Group within the Department of Biological Sciences. This Group was established primarily to ensure that teaching was not adversely affected when four senior staff (all with very considerable teaching experience) retired simultaneously, and were replaced by younger, more junior staff. Since transferring to the Institute for the Environment, I have played a major role in designing and developing Masters Courses in environmental science.
- Advisor to Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on chemicals policy
- Reviewer of research grants and scientific papers for many organisations
- Member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the prestigious journal “Environmental Science and Technology”
- Visiting Professor of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
- External examiner of PhD’s for a large number of universities, both within the UK and abroad
(2012) Kugathas, S., Williams, RJ. and Sumpter, JP., Prediction of environmental concentrations of glucocorticoids: The River Thames, UK, as an example, Environment International 40 (1) : 15- 23
(2011) Touraud, E., Roig, B., Sumpter, JP. and Coetsier, C., Drug residues and endocrine disruptors in drinking water: Risk for humans?, International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 214 437- 441
(2011) Giltrow, E., Eccles, PD., Hutchinson, TH., Sumpter, JP. and Rand-Weaver, M., Characterisation and expression of β1-, β2- and β3-adrenergic receptors in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), General and Comparative Endocrinology 173 (3) : 483- 490 Download publication
(2011) Brian, JV., Beresford, N., Margiotta-Casaluci, L. and Sumpter, JP., Preliminary data on the influence of rearing temperature on the growth and reproductive status of fathead minnows Pimephales promelas, Journal of Fish Biology 79 (1) : 80- 88 Download publication
(2011) Aoki, KA., Harris, CA., Katsiadaki, I. and Sumpter, JP., Evidence suggesting that di-n-butyl phthalate has antiandrogenic effects in fish, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30 (6) : 1338- 1345 Download publication
(2011) Beresford, N., Brian, JV., Runnalls, TJ., Sumpter, JP. and Jobling, S., Estrogenic activity of tropical fish food can alter baseline vitellogenin concentrations in male fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 30 (5) : 1139- 1145 Download publication
(2011) Harris, CA., Hamilton, PB., Runnalls, TJ., Vinciotti, V., Henshaw, A., Hodgson, D., Coe, TS., Jobling, S., Tyler, CR. and Sumpter, JP., The consequences of feminization in breeding groups of wild fish, Environmental Health Perspectives 119 (3) : 306- 311 Download publication
(2011) Margiotta-Casaluci, L. and Sumpter, JP., 5α-Dihydrotestosterone is a potent androgen in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), General and Comparative Endocrinology 171 (3) : 309- 318
(2011) Janna, H., Scrimshaw, MD., Williams, RJ., Churchley, J. and Sumpter, JP., From dishwasher to tap? Xenobiotic substances benzotriazole and tolyltriazole in the environment, Environmental Science and Technology 45 (9) : 3858- 3864 Download publication
(2011) Fent, K. and Sumpter, JP., Progress and promises in toxicogenomics in aquatic toxicology: Is technical innovation driving scientific innovation?, Aquatic Toxicology 105 (Supplement 3-4) : 25- 39
(2011) Kugathas, S. and Sumpter, JP., Synthetic glucocorticoids in the environment: First results on their potential impacts on fish, Environmental Science and Technology 45 (6) : 2377- 2383
(2010) Runnalls, TJ., Margiotta-Casaluci, L., Kugathas, S. and Sumpter, JP., Pharmaceuticals in the aquatic environment: Steroids and anti-steroids as high priorities for research, Human and Ecological Risk Assessment 16 (6) : 1318- 1338
(2010) Paulos, P., Runnalls, TJ., Nallani, G., La Point, T., Scott, AP., Sumpter, JP. and Huggett, DB., Reproductive responses in fathead minnow and Japanese medaka following exposure to a synthetic progestin, Norethindrone, Aquatic Toxicology 99 (2) : 256- 262
(2010) Tarazona, JV., Escher, BI., Giltrow, E., Sumpter, J. and Knacker, T., Targeting the environmental risk assessment of pharmaceuticals: Facts and fantasies, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 6 (SUPPL. 1) : 603- 613
(2010) Scott, AP., Sumpter, JP. and Stacey, N., The role of the maturation-inducing steroid, 17,20β-dihydroxypregn-4-en-3-one, in male fishes: A review, Journal of Fish Biology 76 (1) : 183- 224
(2010) Owen, SF., Huggett, DB., Hutchinson, TH., Hetheridge, MJ., McCormack, P., Kinter, LB., Ericson, JF., Constantine, LA. and Sumpter, JP., The value of repeating studies and multiple controls: Replicated 28-day growth studies of rainbow trout exposed to clofibric acid, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 29 (12) : 2831- 2839
(2009) Giltrow, E., Eccles, PD., Winter, MJ., McCormack, PJ., Rand-Weaver, M., Hutchinson, TH. and Sumpter, JP., Chronic effects assessment and plasma concentrations of the β-blocker propranolol in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), Aquatic Toxicology 95 (3) : 195- 202 Download publication
(2009) Jürgens, MD., Johnson, AC., Pottinger, TG. and Sumpter, JP., Do suspended sediments modulate the effects of octylphenol on rainbow trout?, Water Research 43 (5) : 1381- 1391
(2009) Hannah, R., D'Aco, VJ., Anderson, PD., Buzby, ME., Caldwell, DJ., Cunningham, VL., Ericson, JF., Johnson, AC., Parke, NJ., Samuelian, JH. and Sumpter, JP., Exposure assessment of 17α-ethinylestradiol in surface waters of the Uniter States and Europe, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 28 (12) : 2725- 2732
(2009) Brian, JV., Beresford, N., Walker, J., Pojana, G., Fantinati, A., Marcomini, A. and Sumpter, JP., Hypoxia does not influence the response of fish to a mixture of estrogenic chemicals, Environmental Science and Technology 43 (1) : 214- 218 Download publication
(2009) Sumpter, JP., Protecting aquatic organisms from chemicals: the harsh realities, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 367 (1904) : 3877- 3894
(2009) Johnson, AC., Acreman, MC., Dunbar, MJ., Feist, SW., Giacomello, AM., Gozlan, RE., Hinsley, SA., Ibbotson, AT., Jarvie, HP., Jones, JI., Longshaw, M., Maberly, SC., Marsh, TJ., Neal, C., Newman, JR., Nunn, MA., Pickup, RW., Reynard, NS., Sullivan, CA., Sumpter, JP. and Williams, RJ., The British river of the future: how climate change and human activity might affect two contrasting river ecosystems in England, Science of The Total Environment 407 (17) : 4787- 4798
(2009) Harris, CA., Brian, JV., Pojana, G., Lamoree, M., Booy, P., Marcomini, A. and Sumpter, JP., The influence of a surfactant, linear alkylbenzene sulfonate, on the estrogenic response to a mixture of (xeno)estrogens in vitro and in vivo, Aquatic Toxicology 91 (1) : 95- 98 Download publication
(2009) Owen, SF., Huggett, DB., Hutchinson, TH., Hetheridge, MJ., Kinter, LB., Ericson, JF. and Sumpter, JP., Uptake of propranolol, a cardiovascular pharmaceutical, from water into fish plasma and its effects on growth and organ biometry, Aquatic Toxicology 93 (4) : 217- 224
(2008) Brian, JV., Harris, CA., Runnalls, TJ., Fantinati, A., Pojana, G., Marcomini, A., Booy, P., Lamoree, M., Kortenkamp, A. and Sumpter, JP., Evidence of temperature-dependent effects on the estrogenic response of fish: Implications with regard to climate change, Science of The Total Environment 397 (1-3) : 72- 81 Download publication
(2008) Johnson, AC., Ternes, T., Williams, RJ. and Sumpter, JP., Assessing the concentrations of polar organic microcontaminants from point sources in the aquatic environment: measure or model?, Environmental Science and Technology 42 (15) : 5390- 5399
(2008) Winter, MJ., Lillicrap, AD., Caunter, JE., Schaffner, C., Alder, AC., Ramil, M., Ternes, TA., Giltrow, E., Sumpter, JP. and Hutchinson, TH., Defining the chronic impacts of atenolol on embryo-larval development and reproduction in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), Aquatic Toxicology 86 (3) : 361- 369
(2008) Caldwell, DJ., Mastrocco, F., Hutchinson, TH., Lange, R., Heijerick, D., Janssen, C., Anderson, PD. and Sumpter, JP., Derivation of an aquatic predicted no-effect concentration for the synthetic hormone, 17α-ethinyl estradiol, Environmental Science and Technology 42 (19) : 7046- 7054
(2008) Johnson, AC., Jürgens, MD., Williams, RJ., Kümmerer, K., Kortenkamp, A. and Sumpter, JP., Do cytotoxic chemotherapy drugs discharged into rivers pose a risk to the environment and human health? An overview and UK case study, Journal of Hydrology 348 (1-2) : 167- 175
(2008) Gabriel, FLP., Routledge, EJ., Heidlberger, A., Rentsch, D., Guenther, K., Giger, W., Sumpter, JP. and Kohler, HPE., Isomer-specific degradation and endocrine disrupting activity of nonylphenols, Environmental Science and Technology 42 (17) : 6399- 6408
(2008) Sumpter, JP. and Johnson, AC., Reflections on endocrine disruption in the aquatic environment: from known knowns to unknown unknowns (and many things in between), Journal of Environmental Monitoring 10 (12) : 1476- 1485
(2008) Sumpter, JP., The ecotoxicology of hormonally active micropollutants, Water Science and Technology 57 (1) : 125- 130
(2007) Pash, S., Spooner, J. and Sumpter, JP., Albino common toads (Bufo bufo), Herpetological Bulletin (100) : 8- 11
(2007) Harris, CA., Routledge, EJ., Schaffner, C., Brian, JV., Giger, W. and Sumpter, JP., Benzotriazole is antiestrogenic in vitro but not in vivo, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 26 (11) : 2367- 2372 Download publication
(2007) Owen, SF., Giltrow, E., Huggett, DB., Hutchinson, TH., Saye, J., Winter, MJ. and Sumpter, JP., Comparative physiology, pharmacology and toxicology of beta-blockers: Mammals versus fish, Aquatic Toxicology 82 (3) : 145- 162
(2007) Sumpter, JP., Environmental effects of human pharmaceuticals, Drug Information Journal 41 (2) : 143- 147
(2007) Brian, JV., Harris, CA., Scholze, M., Kortenkamp, A., Booy, P., Lamoree, M., Pojana, G., Jonkers, N., Marcomini, A. and Sumpter, JP., Evidence of estrogenic mixture effects on the reproductive performance of fish, International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology 41 (1) : 337- 344 Download publication
(2008) Harris, CA., Runnalls, TJ., Hamilton, PB., Jobling, S., Tyler, CR. and Sumpter, JP., Assessing the reproductive ability of intersex roach, 18th Annual Meeting of SETAC Europe
(2008) Harris, CA., Runnalls, TJ., Hamilton, PB., Jobling, S., Tyler, CR. and Sumpter, JP., Assessing the reproductivity ability of intersex roach (Poster), 5th Annual Meeting of the SETAC World Congress
(2008) Paulos, P., Runnalls, T., Hala, D., Nallani, G., Venebles, B., La Point, T., Sumpter, J. and Huggett, D., Effects of norethindrone, a synthetic progestin, on reproductive parameters in fish, 29th Annual Meeting of SETAC North America