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Comp Biochem Physiol C. 1987;86(2):233-45.

Review and perspective on the use of mixed-function oxygenase enzymes in biological monitoring.


It is often suggested that changes in simple biochemical/physiological responses may be useful for predicting the impacts of pollutants at population and community levels of biological organization. There are serious conceptual constraints to such a thesis and its seems likely that such simple responses can go no further than serving as early warning systems for delineating potential areas of pollutant impact--areas which (if shown to be significant in size) can then be subjected to more detailed population and community type studies. Environmental testing is a prerequisite for any response suggested to have value as a biological monitoring index and the induction of mixed-function oxygenase (MFO) enzymes has now been validated in a large number of field studies worldwide. Investigations have progressed from documenting induction near localized sources of hydrocarbon contamination to more diffuse sources of mixed organic pollution originating from industrial and domestic sources. Studies in the Great Lakes and Europe have demonstrated that the induction of MFO enzymes is a biological response of sufficient sensitivity to discriminate water quality differences over broad geographical areas. We suggest that as an early warning system, the induction of these enzymes can fulfill the requirement of "most sensitive biological response" for assessing a variety of organic pollution conditions. Given the high level of sensitivity of the MFO enzyme response, negative as well as positive field trials can be of value in addressing concerns about the toxicological significance of "high-profile" chemicals (and potent inducers) such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and organochlorines. MFO enzyme induction can also be an economical tool for environmental managers for reacting to real or perceived concerns about pollution such as effects on commercial fish stocks at sites of petroleum hydrocarbon development in the oceans.

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