Combined effects of moderate hypoxia, pesticides and PCBs upon crucian carp fish, Carassius carassius, from a freshwater lake- in situ ecophysiological approach

Aquat Toxicol. 2020 Nov:228:105644. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2020.105644. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Nowadays, depletion of oxygen or hypoxia has become a real concerning problem worldwide in freshwater, marine, and estuarine ecosystems and very often co-occurs with xenobiotics. Even though the acute and severe hypoxia is heavily studied in environment and laboratory studies, the in situ combined effects of these stressors on freshwater lake organisms are poorly understood. The current study sought to understand how the combined effects of moderate hypoxia, pesticides and PCBs affect the biochemistry, physiology and organ morphology of Carassius carassius, residing in the Lake Seferani, Dumrea region (Elbasan, Albania), a natural karst freshwater system declared as Nature Monument situated in central Albania. Crucian carp is used as a model organism, because of its residency and ecological relevance to the Lake, as well as for its amenability for the environmental toxicology studies. For this purpose, blood, liver and kidney samples of fish were processed for hematological, biochemical and histopathological analysis. We found a significant increase of blood glucose (GLU), cortisol levels, hematocrit (PCV) and hemoglobin (Hb) which clearly indicate the presence of stress in fish. Based on the histopathological evaluation and organ index results, liver and kidney organs displayed moderate-to-heavy histological-architecture changes. Our results provide a strong evidence that both, hypoxia and the presence of pesticides and PCB congeners found in Seferani Lake, put a heavy load on C. carassius energy metabolism and endocrine system, leading to an elevation of the biochemical and physiological parameters (hemoglobin level, hematocrit, glucose and cortisol), as well as the histopathological alterations. Additionally, in the presence of moderate hypoxia, the toxic effects of pesticides and PCBs on C. carassius are exacerbated. Further studies are needed to evaluate possible effects of pesticide and PCBs toxicity in human health, since crucian carp has an economic value for the population of the zone and it is used often as food sustenance. Elucidation of these kinds of responses can better improve our understanding of response of highly tolerant species, like Carassius carassius, to multiple stressors interactions, helping us to better predict and manage the consequences of the exposure of the freshwater biota to complex stressors in an environment that changes rapidly.

Keywords: Carp fish; Combined stressors; Moderate hypoxia; Physiological biomarkers; Tissue alterations.

MeSH terms

  • Albania
  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Carps / metabolism*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Geography
  • Hematocrit
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypoxia / pathology*
  • Lakes*
  • Organ Specificity / drug effects
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Water Quality


  • Blood Glucose
  • Pesticides
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls
  • Hydrocortisone