Adverse Health Effects of Dietary Selenomethionine on Juvenile White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus)
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Sturgeon are an ancient family of fish which have remained essentially unchanged for 200 million years, rendering them physiologically distinct from the more modern teleosts. Of the 26 known species of sturgeons all are likely endangered. North American populations have been declining steadily since the 1800s due to factors such as overharvesting, habitat alterations and increasing pollution. White sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus), endemic to Western North America, are the largest freshwater fish on the continent. Protecting white sturgeon is of interest because nearly all Canadian populations are endangered and they are culturally and economically important. Factors such as great size, longevity, position in the food chain and benthic life style render white sturgeon particularly susceptible to bioaccumulation of toxicants. They are known to be among the most sensitive species to pollutants such as metal ions, dioxin-like compounds and endocrine disrupters. However, little is known about their susceptibility to other priority contaminants such as selenium (Se). Selenium, in its organic form selenomethionine (SeMet) has become a contaminant of particular concern as it is a known toxicant that efficiently bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in the food chain. It is also of interest as Se is an essential micronutrient that becomes toxic at only marginally greater than optimal doses. Current elevated concentrations of SeMet in white sturgeon prey, with predicted increases in anthropogenic releases, have made it a contaminant of concern for this species. It is hypothesized that increased releases of Se to aquatic environments have contributed in part to sturgeon declines; however, to date little is known about its specific effects on this species. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to investigate the sensitivity of three year old white sturgeon to dietary SeMet and to link physiological effects to key molecular events of toxicity and to elucidate the mechanism of toxicity. Specifically, this thesis focused on oxidative stress in liver tissue as a hypothesized primary mechanism of toxicity. For 72 days sturgeon were given either a control diet of 1.4 µg Se/g feed or a diet spiked with SeMet (5.6, 22.4 or 104.4 µg Se/g feed dry mass). These doses corresponded to an uptake necessary for proper health, two environmentally relevant exposures, and a worst-case scenario for industrial Se release, respectively. A subsample of fish was taken at day 10 to investigate molecular endpoints. Within 10 days of exposure, pathological effects were observed in fish given the high dose. Occurrence of severe edema causing exophthalmos developed within 15, 23 and 52 days in high, medium and low dose group fish, respectively. There was a 54% and 22% occurrence of lethal effects in the high and medium dose groups, respectively. Se accumulated in a dose dependent manner and reached equilibrium in high dose fish after approximately 40 days. Growth, liver weight and hepatosomatic index were all significantly lower in the high dose group. Histology of 72 day liver samples showed a significant and dose dependent increase in melanomacrophage aggregates and decrease of energy stores and cell size. Food avoidance was also observed in sturgeon exposed to the high dose. To investigate oxidative stress, 10 day liver samples were tested for changes in gene expression coding for glutathione peroxidase (GPx), superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione S-transferase, apoptosis inducing factor and caspase 3, using real-time PCR. Only GPx was significantly induced. Day 72 liver samples were tested for the presence of lipid hydroperoxides but there were no significant differences between dose groups and controls, which shed doubt on oxidative stress being the main driver of toxicity. Taken together the data makes a strong case for the sensitivity of white sturgeon to Se accumulation and indicates a general suppression of health due to toxic levels of exposure. However, in contrast to other fish species exposed to Se, oxidative stress is not likely the main mechanism of toxicity in white sturgeon. Findings from the present study could be used for the risk assessment of sturgeon to anthropogenic Se in aquatic ecosystems.
DegreeMaster of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
DepartmentSchool of Environment and Sustainability
ProgramEnvironment and Sustainability
CommitteeLiber, Karsten; Jardine, Tim; Bharadwaj, Lalita
Copyright DateMarch 2016