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Environ Health Perspect. 1987 Apr;71:47-58.

The fish gill: site of action and model for toxic effects of environmental pollutants.


The gill epithelium is the site of gas exchange, ionic regulation, acid-base balance, and nitrogenous waste excretion by fishes. The last three processes are controlled by passive and active transport of various solutes across the epithelium. Various environmental pollutants (e.g., heavy metals, acid rain, and organic xenobiotics) have been found to affect the morphology of the gill epithelium. Associated with these morphological pathologies, one finds alterations in blood ionic levels, as well as gill Na,K-activated ATPase activity and ionic fluxes. Such physiological disturbances may underly the toxicities of these pollutants. In addition, the epithelial transport steps which are affected in the fish gill model resemble those described in the human gut and kidney, sites of action of a variety of environmental toxins.

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