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Ecotoxicology. 2013 May;22(4):740-51. doi: 10.1007/s10646-013-1066-9. Epub 2013 Mar 26.

Differential gene expression associated with dietary methylmercury (MeHg) exposure in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and zebrafish (Danio rerio).

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Lapham Hall, 3209 N. Maryland Ave, Milwaukee, WI, USA.


The objective of this study was to identify and evaluate conserved biomarkers that could be used in most species of teleost fish at most life-stages. We investigated the effects of sublethal methylmercury (MeHg) exposure on developing rainbow trout and zebrafish. Juvenile rainbow trout and young adult zebrafish were fed food with MeHg added at 0, 0.5, 5, and 50 ppm. Atomic absorption spectrometry was applied to measure whole body total Hg levels, and pathologic analysis was performed to identify MeHg-induced toxicity. Fish at 6 weeks were sampled from each group for microarray analysis using RNA from whole fish. MeHg-exposed trout and zebrafish did not show overt signs of toxicity or pathology, nor were significant differences seen in mortality, length, mass, or condition factor. The accumulation of MeHg in trout and zebrafish exhibited dose- and time-dependent patterns during 6 weeks, and zebrafish exhibited greater assimilation of total Hg than rainbow trout. The dysregulated genes in MeHg-treated fish have multiple functional annotations, such as iron ion homeostasis, glutathione transferase activity, regulation of muscle contraction, troponin I binding and calcium-dependent protein binding. Genes were selected as biomarker candidates based on their microarray data and their expression was evaluated by QPCR. Unfortunately, these genes are not good consistent biomarkers for both rainbow trout and zebrafish from QPCR evaluation using individual fish. Our conclusion is that biomarker analysis for aquatic toxicant assessment using fish needs to be based on tissue-, sex- and species-specific consideration.

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