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Aquat Toxicol. 2011 Sep;105(1-2):157-65. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2011.06.007. Epub 2011 Jun 13.

Translational responses and oxidative stress of mussels experimentally exposed to Hg, Cu and Cd: one pattern does not fit at all.

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  • 1Laboratory of Biochemistry, School of Medicine, University of Patras, 26504 Patras, Greece.


Certain metals, like Hg, Cu and Cd, are capable of down-regulating protein synthesis in several marine organisms, including Mytilus galloprovincialis. Nevertheless, due to the complexity of the environmental stress, it is difficult to evaluate the influence of individual metals on protein synthesis via field studies. To bypass this difficulty, experimental studies were carried out on M. galloprovincialis exposed in aquarium for 15 days to one of three selected metal salts, HgCl(2), CuCl(2) and CdCl(2). Polysome profile was determined in digestive gland extracts of the exposed mussels as a way of measuring the functional status of ribosomes, superoxide radical production and lipid peroxidation as indicators of oxidative stress, metallothionein content as a metal detoxification index, and superoxide dismutase activity as a free radicals-scavenging index. Exposure of mussels to Hg(2+) or Cu(2+) resulted in a concentration- and time-dependent decrease in the polysome content of digestive gland cells, which at 15th day of exposure and at the highest metal concentrations tested, was 32% and 19% of the control, respectively. Both metals, at the concentrations used (<40 μg/L), did not significantly influence the oxidative stress biomarkers. By contrast, Cd(2+) treatment significantly induced superoxide radical production and lipid peroxidation in digestive gland cells, hinting that mussels suffered from oxidative stress. Polysome levels in Cd(2+)-exposed mussels were initially decreased by day 5 in digestive gland cells and then elevated to reach nearly the control levels by 15 days of exposure. Elevated protein synthesis was associated with significantly increased production of metallothioneins, whereas such increase was not recorded in Hg(2+)- or Cu(2+)-exposed mussels. Interestingly, the ribosome efficiency at initiating protein synthesis followed a similar pattern of polysome alterations, a fact suggesting that regulation of protein synthesis mainly occurred at the initiation phase of translation. Overall, these results suggest that the effect of each metal on protein synthesis is idiosyncratic and depends on its ability to induce specific cellular defense mechanisms against oxidative stress.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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