Effects of in situ exposure to tritiated natural environments: A multi-biomarker approach using the fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas
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Aquatic ecosystems are chronically exposed to radionuclides as well as other pollutants. Increased concentrations of pollutants in aquatic environments can present a risk to exposed organisms, including fish. The goal of this study was to characterize the effects of tritium, in the context of natural environments, on the health of fathead minnow, Pimephales promelas. Fish were exposed to tritium (activity concentrations ranging from 2 to 23,000Bq/L) and also to various concentrations of several metals to replicate multiple-stressor environments. Fish were exposed for 60days, then transferred to the tritium background site where they stayed for another 60days. Tritium, in the forms of tritiated water (HTO) and organically bound tritium (OBT), and a series of fish health indicators were measured in fish tissues at seven time points throughout the 120days required to complete the exposure and the depuration phases. Results showed effects of environmental exposure following the increase of tritium activity and metals concentrations in water. The internal dose rates of tritium, estimated from tissue HTO and OBT activity concentrations, were consistently low (maximum of 0.2μGy/h) compared to levels at which population effects may be expected (>100μGy/h) and no effects were observed on survival, fish condition, gonado-somatic, hepato-somatic, spleno-somatic and metabolic indices (RNA/DNA, proteins/DNA and protein carbonylation (in gonads and kidneys)). Using multivariate analyses, we showed that several biomarkers (DNA damages, MN frequency, gamma-H2AX, SFA/MUFA ratios, lysosomal membrane integrity, AChE, SOD, phagocytosis and esterase activities) were exclusively correlated with fish tritium internal dose rate, showing that tritium induced genotoxicity, DNA repair activity, changes in fatty acid composition, and immune, neural and antioxidant responses. Some biomarkers were responding to the presence of metals, but overall, more biomarkers were linked to internalized tritium. The results are discussed in the context of multiple stressors involving metals and tritium.
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