Tebuconazole (TBZ), an azole pesticide, is one of the most frequently detected fungicides in surface water. Despite its harmful effects, mainly related to endocrine disturbance, the consequences of TBZ exposure in amphibians remain poorly understood. Here, we investigated the adverse and delayed effects of TBZ chronic exposure on a native anuran species, often inhabiting cultivated areas, the Italian tree frog (Hyla intermedia). To disclose the multiple mechanisms of action through which TBZ exerts its toxicity we exposed tadpoles over the whole larval period to two sublethal TBZ concentrations (5 and 50 μg/L), and we evaluated histological alterations in three target organs highly susceptible to xenobiotics: liver, kidney, and gonads. We also assessed morphometric and gravimetric parameters: snout-vent length (SVL), body mass (BM), liver somatic index (LSI), and gonad-mesonephros complex index (GMCI) and determined sex ratio, gonadal development, and differentiation. Our results show that TBZ induces irreversible effects on multiple target organs in H. intermedia, exerting its harmful effects through several pathological pathways, including a massive inflammatory response. Moreover, TBZ markedly affects sexual differentiation also by inducing the appearance of sexually undetermined individuals and a general delay of germ cell maturation. Given the paucity of data on the effects of TBZ in amphibians, our results will contribute to a better understanding of the environmental risk posed by this fungicide to the most endangered group of vertebrates.
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