Here we report a series of experiments on the development and occurrence of imposex in the common whelk, Buccinum undatum, under the influence of (chronic) exposure to butyltin compounds. The main objective of the experiments was to obtain more information about the effects of organotin compounds in the marine environment, which possibly relate to the reported decline of B. undatum in Dutch coastal waters. In these studies tributyltin (TBT) dose-dependently induced the development of male sexual organs in juvenile whelks. A TBT concentration >7 ng Sn/l induced imposex in juvenile whelks. Growth in TBT-exposed juvenile whelks was significantly reduced compared to the reference group at a nominal TBT dose ≥4 ng Sn/l in one of the exposure studies. After 5 years in the laboratory, egg-laying was only observed in reference aquaria. Thus, TBT might impair whelk reproduction through growth reduction. The results showed a sensitivity towards imposex development in different life-stages. Juveniles were the most sensitive, adolescent females also responded, but adult females did not respond to TBT exposure, although they dose-dependently increased their organotin (OT) body-burden when exposed. Environmental TBT during only the in ovo stage, did not result in an increased masculinisation compared to non-exposed developing whelks. Histological studies showed no sterilisation due to mechanical blockage of the (adult) female genital opening by sperm-duct tissue. Gonadal development in 2-year old juveniles was not observed. This implies that the differentiation of a penis and a vas deferens, which already occurred in the first few months after hatching, was not controlled by gonadal factors. No other sexual characteristics than those already visible with the eye were found. TBT inactivated CYP450 to its inactive form CYP420 in in vitro exposure studies with microsomal fractions of whelks. The studies have shown TBT to disrupt sexual development dose dependently in juvenile common whelks. TBT also dose dependently exerts an effect on enzymatic (CYP450) processes. Although no mechanical sterilisation was observed, reproduction might be impaired through growth reduction. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.