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Aquat Toxicol. 2002 Mar;56(4):289-301.

Exposure of Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) to benzo[a]pyrene suppresses immune function and host resistance against bacterial challenge.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, 57 Old Forge Road, Tuxedo, NY 10987, USA.


Besides being a potent chemical carcinogen, benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) has also been shown to suppress the immune response of mammals. However, even though BaP is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant to which aquatic species may be directly exposed, information regarding the effects of BaP on the immune system of fish is still lacking. Therefore, laboratory studies were conducted using Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) to examine the effects of BaP on host immune status. A single IP injection of BaP at 2, 20 or 200 microg/g BW had no effect upon medaka survival or condition factors for up to 7 days post-injection. Forty-eight hours after injection of either BaP or the vehicle control, fish were sacrificed and the appropriate organs/cells used to assess effects upon: splenic lymphocyte proliferation; kidney phagocyte intracellular superoxide (*O(2)(-)) production; and, CYP1A protein level/activity. In separate experiments, fish were injected with either sheep red blood cells or the bacterial pathogen Yersinia ruckeri at 48 h post-BaP exposure for later determination of antibody-forming cell (AFC) numbers and bacterial host resistance, respectively. Results demonstrated that in the absence of effects upon host survival or condition factors, a single exposure to a relatively low dose of BaP (2 microg/g BW) significantly suppressed mitogen-stimulated T- and B-lymphocyte proliferation (in the absence of elevated hepatic CYP1A expression/activity). At higher concentrations, BaP also reduced AFC numbers, phagocyte-mediated *O(2)(-) production, and host resistance against bacterial infection. These results clearly demonstrate the ability of BaP to compromise the immune response of fish and indicate the utility of the fish immune response to serve as an early indicator of BaP exposure/effects in exposed feral populations.

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