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Gene transcription reflects poor health status of resident European eel chronically exposed to environmental pollutants
Maes, G.E.; Raeymaekers, J.A.M.; Hellemans, B.; Geeraerts, C.; Parmentier, K.; De Temmerman, L.; Volckaert, F.A.M.; Belpaire, C. (2013). Gene transcription reflects poor health status of resident European eel chronically exposed to environmental pollutants. Aquat. Toxicol. 126: 242-255.
In: Aquatic Toxicology. Elsevier Science: Tokyo; New York; London; Amsterdam. ISSN 0166-445X; e-ISSN 1879-1514
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 
    Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee: Open Marine Archive 279351 [ download pdf ]

    Anguilla anguilla (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    European eel; Ecotoxicology; Functional response; Gene transcription; Insitu study; qPCR; River pollution

Authors  Top 
  • Maes, G.E.
  • Raeymaekers, J.A.M.
  • Hellemans, B.
  • Geeraerts, C.
  • Parmentier, K.
  • De Temmerman, L.
  • Volckaert, F.A.M.
  • Belpaire, C.

    Understanding the effects of chronic exposure to pollutants on the genome and transcriptome of diadromous fish populations is crucial for their resilience under combined anthropogenic and environmental selective pressures. The catadromous European eel (Anguilla anguillaL.) has suffered a dramatic decline in recruitment for three decades, necessitating a thorough assessment of the transcriptional effects of environmental pollutants on resident and migrating eels in natural systems. We investigated the relationship between muscular bioaccumulation levels of metals (Hg, Cd, Pb, Cu, Zn, Ni, Cr, As and Se), PCBs and organochlorine pesticides (DDTs), the health status (condition factor and lipid reserves) and the associated transcriptional response in liver and gill tissues for genes involved in metal detoxification (metallothionein, MT) and oxidative metabolism (cytochrome P4501A, CYP1A) of xenobiotic compounds. In total 84 resident eels originating from three Belgian river basins (Scheldt, Meuse and Yzer) were analyzed along with five unpolluted aquaculture samples as control group. There was a large spatial variation in individual contaminant intensity and profile, while tissue pollution levels were strongly and negatively associated with condition indices, suggesting an important impact of pollution on the health of sub-adult resident eels. Gene transcription patterns revealed a complex response mechanism to a cocktail of pollutants, with a high variation at low pollution levels, but strongly down-regulated hepatic and gill gene transcription in highly polluted eels. Resident eels clearly experience a high pollution burden and seem to show a dysfunctional gene transcription regulation of detoxification genes at higher pollutant levels, correlated with low energy reserves and condition. To fully understand the evolutionary implications of pollutants on eel reproductive fitness, analyses of mature migrating eels and the characterization of their transcriptome-wide gene transcription response would be appropriate to unveil the complex responses associated with multiple interacting stressors and the long-term consequences at the entire species level. In the meanwhile, jointly monitoring environmental and tissue pollution levels at a European scale should be initiated, while preserving high quality habitats to increase the recovery chance of European eel in the future.

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