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Ecotoxicology. 2014 Aug;23(6):1004-14. doi: 10.1007/s10646-014-1243-5. Epub 2014 May 1.

A positive correlation between mercury and oxidative stress-related gene expression (GPX3 and GSTM3) is measured in female Double-crested Cormorant blood.

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School of Environmental Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, K7L 3N6, Canada.


Mercury (Hg) is a widespread contaminant that has been shown to induce a wide range of adverse health effects in birds including reproductive, physiological and neurological impairments. Here we explored the relationship between blood total Hg concentrations ([THg]) and oxidative stress gene induction in the aquatic piscivorous Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) using a non-lethal technique, i.e., blood gene expression analysis. P. auritus blood was sampled at five sites across the Great Lakes basin, Ontario, Canada and was analyzed for [THg]. To assess cellular stress, the expression of glutathione peroxidases 1 and 3 (GPX1, GPX3), superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1), heat-shock protein 70 kd-8 (HSP70-8) and glutathione S-transferase ยต3 (GSTM3) were measured in whole blood samples using real-time RT-PCR. Results showed a significantly positive correlation between female blood [THg] and both GPX3 and GSTM3 expression. Different levels of oxidative stress experienced by males and females during the breeding season may be influencing the differential oxidative stress responses to blood [THg] observed in this study. Overall, these results suggest that Hg may lead to oxidative stress as some of the cellular stress-related genes were altered in the blood of female P. auritus and that blood gene expression analysis is a successful approach to assess bird health condition.

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