Investigating the mechanisms of Ni uptake and sub-lethal toxicity in the Atlantic killifish Fundulus heteroclitus in relation to salinity
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The Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) is a resilient estuarine species that may be subjected to anthropogenic contamination of its natural habitat, by toxicants such as nickel (Ni). We investigated Ni accumulation and potential modes of Ni toxicity, in killifish, as a function of environmental salinity. Killifish were acclimated to 4 different salinities [0 freshwater (FW), 10, 30 and 100% seawater (SW)] and exposed to 5 mg/L of Ni for 96 h. Tissue Ni accumulation, whole body ions, critical swim speed and oxidative stress parameters were examined. SW was protective against Ni accumulation in the gills and kidney. Addition of Mg and Ca to FW protected against gill Ni accumulation, suggesting competition with Ni for uptake. Concentration-dependent Ni accumulation in the gill exhibited saturable relationships in both FW- and SW-acclimated fish. However SW fish displayed a lower Bmax (i.e. lower number of Ni binding sites) and a lower Km (i.e. higher affinity for Ni binding). No effect of Ni exposure was observed on critical swim speed (Ucrit) or maximum rate of oxygen consumption (MO2max). Markers of oxidative stress showed either no effect (e.g. protein carbonyl formation), or variable effects that appeared to depend more on salinity than on Ni exposure. These data indicate that the killifish is very tolerant to Ni toxicity, a characteristic that may facilitate the use of this species as a site-specific biomonitor of contaminated estuaries.
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