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Toxicol Pathol. 1992;20(1):81-92.

Histopathological effects in Poecilia reticulata (guppy) exposed to methyl mercury chloride.

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  • 1Laboratory for Pathology, National Institute of Public Health and Environmental Protection, Bilthoven, The Netherlands.


To evaluate the usefulness of histopathology in aquatic toxicity testing, studies were carried out on the small freshwater fish Poecilia reticulata (guppy) following aqueous methyl mercury chloride exposure. Fish were exposed to concentrations of 0, 1.0, 1.8, 3.2, 5.6, or 10 micrograms/L for 1 and 3 months. Histopathological changes included the occurrence of multiple granulomas in various tissues, in particular, the integument and orbit. These changes were accompanied by hyperplasia of monocytopoietic interrenal tissue, and hepatocellular change which was confirmed by morphometry. The latter findings were probably a result of monocyte "consumption" by granulomas, and hepatic synthesis of ("stress") proteins, respectively. The bile duct and, focally, the proximal intestine, showed hyperplasia of the epithelium. In the testis of sexually mature fish (3-month study), degeneration and necrosis of sperm occurred, with severe cases exhibiting Sertoli cell hypertrophy, interstitial inflammation, and absence of mature sperm. Epidermal mucous cells disappeared in the highest concentration used, and, after 3 months, clusters of undifferentiated basophilic cells were seen in the gas gland, which occasionally were suggestive of malignant growth. The changes in the kidney tubules were characterized by degeneration and necrosis of single cells which also showed mitotic figures. This is considered a result of the mitosis-disturbing activity of methyl mercury (MeHg). It is concluded that MeHg has effects on various target organs in guppies with the occurrence of granulomas as the most sensitive indicator, yielding a no-observed-effect concentration (NOEC) of 1.0 micrograms/L. In contrast to mammalian species, no morphologic evidence for neurotoxicity was found.

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