Lead toxicity on non-specific immune mechanisms of freshwater fish Channa punctatus

Aquat Toxicol. 2014 Jul;152:105-12. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2014.03.017. Epub 2014 Mar 28.


Lead has no known role in the body that is physiologically relevant, and its harmful effects are myriad. Lead from the atmosphere and soil ends up in water bodies thus affecting the aquatic organisms. This situation has thus prompted numerous investigations on the effects of this metal on the biological functions of aquatic organisms, particularly on immune mechanisms in fish. This paper addresses the immunotoxicologic effects of lead acetate in intestinal macrophages of freshwater fish Channa punctatus. Fish were exposed to lead acetate (9.43mg/l) for 4 days. When checked for its effects on macrophages, it was noted that lead interfered with bacterial phagocytosis, intracellular killing capacity and cell adhesion as well as inhibited release of antimicrobial substances like nitric oxide (NO) and myeloperoxidase (MPO). On giving bacterial challenge with Staphylococcus aureus to intestinal macrophages of both control and lead treated groups, the macrophages showed significantly higher concentration of viable bacteria in the intracellular milieu in lead treated group as compared to control. We also report that in vivo exposure to lead acetate inhibits phagocytosis, which is evident from a reduced phagocytic index of treated group from that of the control. The amount of MPO and NO released by the control cells was also reduced significantly upon in vivo lead treatment. The property of antigenic adherence to the macrophage cell membrane, a vital process in phagocytosis, was significantly decreased in the treated group as compared to control. Severe damage in intestinal epithelium, disarrangement and fragmentation of mucosal foldings was observed in lead treated group when compared with the untreated group. The present results also showed decreased tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) level upon metal exposure in sera as well as cell lysate of lead exposed fish thus, implicating both MAPK signaling pathways as well as NFκβ signaling. We thus conclude that lead affects the general immune status of C. punctatus and renders the fish immunocompromised and susceptible to pathogens.

Keywords: Channa punctatus; Immunocompromised state; Lead; Oxygen-dependent killing mechanisms; Scanning electron microscope; TNF-α.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Fresh Water
  • Intestines / drug effects*
  • Intestines / ultrastructure
  • Macrophages / drug effects*
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Organometallic Compounds / toxicity*
  • Perciformes*
  • Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Peroxidase
  • lead acetate