Morphological alterations in the liver of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) from a biological mercury hotspot
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Mercury (Hg) contamination is a global issue due to its anthropogenic release, long-range transport, and deposition in remote areas. In Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia, Canada, high concentrations of total mercury (THg) were found in tissues of yellow perch (Perca flavescens). The aim of this study was to evaluate a possible relationship between THg concentrations and the morphology of perch liver as a main site of metal storage and toxicity. Yellow perch were sampled from five lakes known to contain fish representing a wide range in Hg concentrations in fall 2013. The ultrastructure of hepatocytes and the distribution of Hg within the liver parenchyma were analyzed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and electron energy loss spectrometry (EELS). The relative area of macrophage aggregates (MAs) in the liver was determined using image analysis software and fluorescence microscopy. No relation between general health indicators (Fulton's condition index) and THg was observed. In line with this, TEM examination of the liver ultrastructure revealed no prominent pathologies related to THg accumulation. However, a morphological parameter that appeared to increase with muscle THg was the relative area of MAs in the liver. The hepatic lysosomes appeared to be enlarged in samples with the highest THg concentrations. Interestingly, EELS analysis revealed that the MAs and hepatic lysosomes contained Hg.
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