Correlated responses for DNA damage, phagocytosis activity and lysosomal function revealed in a comparison between field and laboratory studies: Fathead minnow exposed to tritium Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Tritium entering the aquatic environment can confer a whole body internal radiological dose to aquatic organisms. Multiple stressors inherent in natural environments, however, confound estimates for observable radiation specific responses. To disentangle differences between field and laboratory outcomes to tritium exposures, a multivariate analysis comparing biomarkers for radiation exposure at the cellular level with changes in biological processes within tissues is described for fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Over tritium activity concentrations up to 180,000 Bq/L, DNA damage in the field were lower than DNA damage in the laboratory. This finding does not support an increase in morbidity of biota in field exposures. Energy deposited by tritium decay produces oxidised free radicals, yet the biological responses in brain, muscle and liver to oxidative stress differed between the studies and were not related to the tritium. For both studies, DNA damage in gonad and blood increased with increased tritium as did the fluorescence associated with lysosomal function in spleen. The studies differed in spleen phagocytosis activity were, in the laboratory but not the field, activity increased with increased tritium-and was correlatd with lysosomal function (Spearman coefficient of 0.98 (p = 0.001). The higher phagocytosis activity in the field reflects exposures to unmeasured factors that were not present within the laboratory. In the laboratory, DNA damage and lysosomal function were correlated: Spearman coefficients of 0.9 (Comet, p = 0.03) and 0.9 (micronuclei, p = 0.08). In the field, DNA damage by the Comet assay, but not by micronucleus frequency, correlated with lysosomal function: Spearman coefficients of 0.91 (Comet, p < 0.001) and 0.47 (micronuclei, p = 0.21). These observations highlight a need for better physiologic understanding of linkages between radiation-induced damage within cells and responses at higher levels of biological organization.


  • Beaton, ED
  • Gosselin, Isabelle
  • Festarini, Amy
  • Gagnaire, Beatrice
  • Farrow, Francesca
  • Cavalié, Isabelle
  • Shultz, Carmen
  • Kim, Sang Bog
  • Walsh, Stephanie
  • Chen, Hui Qun
  • Adam-Guillermin, Christelle
  • Audette-Stuart, Marilyne

publication date

  • April 2019