The toxicity of water-soluble fractions of biodegraded crude oil (BWSF) to embryos and larvae of two marine invertebrates, the white sea urchin (Lytechinus anamesus) and the fat innkeeper (Urechis caupo), was studied. Santa Barbara Channel crude oil was artificially weathered and subjected to biodegradation using a mixed microbe culture obtained from natural oil seep sites. The degradation culture inoculated with seep sediment microbes accumulated 43.7 microg/l water-soluble hydrocarbons. In contrast water-soluble fractions from the non-degraded cultures (NWSF) only accumulated 3.05 microg/l. BWSF proved deleterious to Lytechinus embryo development at low concentrations (EC50 = 0.33 mg/l) but was essentially non-toxic to Urechis embryos/larvae up to 3.0 mg/l. An established mechanism for handling of a wide array of xenobiotics in Urechis embryos is the multixenobiotoic resistance transporter multixenobiotic response (MXR, also known as multidrug resistance, MDR). This mechanism is primarily mediated by ATP-dependent, efflux pumps that extrude a wide array of xenobiotic compounds. In this study, we show that Lytechinus larvae do not appear to express MXR efflux protein nor MXR mediated dye efflux capacity. In contrast, BWSF acts as a competitive inhibitor of MXR transport-mediated dye efflux in Urechis larvae. These results suggest that MXR may be an important mechanism for extrusion of the by-products of crude oil degradation by microbes, and that the level of its expression may determine the susceptibility of organisms to degraded oil hydrocarbons.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science B.V.