Effects of Anthropogenic Pollution on the Oxidative Phosphorylation Pathway of Hepatocytes from Natural Populations of Fundulus heteroclitus

Aquat Toxicol. 2015 Aug;165:231-40. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2015.06.009. Epub 2015 Jun 19.


Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), potentially target mitochondria and cause toxicity. We compared the effects of POPs on mitochondrial respiration by measuring oxidative phosphorylation (OxPhos) metabolism in hepatocytes isolated from lab-depurated Fundulus heteroclitus from a Superfund site contaminated with PAHs (Elizabeth River VA, USA) relative to OxPhos metabolism in individuals from a relatively clean, reference population (King's Creek VA, USA). In individuals from the polluted Elizabeth River population, OxPhos metabolism displayed lower LEAK and lower activities in complex III, complex IV, and E State, but higher activity in complex I compared to individuals from the reference King's Creek population. To test the supposition that these differences were due to or related to the chronic PAH contamination history of the Elizabeth River population, we compared the OxPhos functions of undosed individuals from the polluted and reference populations to individuals from these populations dosed with a PAH {benzo [α] pyrene (BaP)} or a PCB {PCB126 (3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl)}, respectively. Exposure to PAH or PCB affected OxPhos in the reference King's Creek population but had no detectable effects on the polluted Elizabeth River population. Thus, PAH exposure significantly increased LEAK, and exposure to PCB126 significantly decreased State 3, E state and complex I activity in the reference King's Creek population. These data strongly implicate an evolved tolerance in the Elizabeth River fish where dosed fish are not affected by PAH exposure and undosed fish show decreased LEAK and increased State 3 and E state.

Keywords: Benzo [α] pyrene; Elizabeth River; Fundulus heteroclitus; Oxidative phosphorylation; PCB126.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fundulidae / physiology*
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation / drug effects*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / toxicity
  • Rivers
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • 3,4,5,3',4'-pentachlorobiphenyl