Toward understanding the impacts of sediment contamination on a native fish species: transcriptional effects, EROD activity, and biliary PAH metabolites

Environ Sci Eur. 2016;28(1):28. doi: 10.1186/s12302-016-0096-3. Epub 2016 Dec 5.


Background: Both frequency and intensity of flood events are expected to increase as a result of global climate change in the upcoming decades, potentially resulting in increased re-suspension of sediments in fluvial systems. Contamination of these re-suspended sediments with legacy contaminants, including dioxins and dioxin-like compounds (DLCs), as well as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) is of great ecotoxicological concern. DLCs, and to some extent also PAHs, exhibit their toxicity through activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR). However, interactions of DLCs with pathways other than those known to be mediated through the AhR are not fully understood to date.

Methods: This study aimed to investigate molecular and biochemical effects in roach (Rutilus rutilus) during a 10 days exposure to suspensions of three natural sediments that differed in the level of DLC contamination. Concentrations of biliary PAH metabolites and hepatic 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase activity were quantified in exposed fish. Furthermore, the abundance of transcripts of several genes related to energy metabolism, response to oxidative stress, and apoptosis, as well as cytochrome P450 1A (cyp1a) was quantified.

Results: Biliary PAH metabolites and activation of the AhR were confirmed as suitable early warning biomarkers of exposure to suspended sediments containing DLCs and PAHs that corresponded well with analytically determined concentrations of those contaminants. Although the abundances of transcripts of superoxide dismutase (sod), protein kinase c delta (pkcd), and ATP-binding cassette transporter c9 (abcc9) were altered by the treatment compared with unexposed control fish, none of these showed a time- or concentration-dependent response. The abundance of transcripts of pyruvate carboxylase (pc) and transferrin variant d (tfd) remained unaltered by the treatments.

Conclusions: We have shown that contaminated sediments can become a risk for fish during re-suspension events (e.g., flooding and dredging). We have also demonstrated that roach, which are native to most European freshwater systems, are suitable sentinel species due to their great sensitivity and ecological relevance. Roach may be particularly suitable in future field studies to assess the toxicological concerns associated with the release of DLCs and PAHs during sediment re-suspension.

Keywords: EROD; Non-model fish species; Quantitative real-time RT-PCR; Real-time PCR array.