PCB related effects thresholds as derived through gene transcript profiles in locally contaminated ringed seals (Pusa hispida)
Environmental Science and Technology
Causal evidence linking toxic injury to polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) exposure is typically confounded by the complexity of real-world contaminant mixtures to which aquatic wildlife are exposed. A local PCB "hotspot" on the Labrador coast provided a rare opportunity to evaluate the effects of PCBs on the health of a marine mammal as this chemical dominated their persistent organic pollutant (POP) burdens. The release of approximately 260 kg of PCBs by a military radar facility over a 30 year period (1970-2000) contaminated some local marine biota, including the ringed seal (Pusa hispida). The abundance profiles of eight health-related gene transcripts were evaluated in liver samples collected from 43 ringed seals in the affected area. The mRNA transcript levels of five gene targets, including aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr), interleukin-1 β (Il1b), estrogen receptor α (Esr1), insulin like growth factor receptor 1 (Igf1), and glucocorticoid receptor α (Nr3c1) correlated with increasing levels of blubber PCBs. PCB threshold values calculated using best-fit hockey-stick regression models for these five genes averaged 1,680 ± 206 ng/g lw, with the lowest, most conservative, being 1,370 ng/g lw for Il1b. Approximately 14% of the seals in the region exceeded this threshold. The dominance of PCBs in the seals studied enabled an assessment of the effects of this chemical on gene transcripts involved in regulating the health of a highly mobile predator, something that is rarely possible in the world of complex mixtures.
Brown, Tanya M.; Ross, Peter S.; Reimer, Ken J.; Veldhoen, Nik; Dangerfield, Neil J.; Fisk, Aaron T.; and Helbing, Caren C.. (2014). PCB related effects thresholds as derived through gene transcript profiles in locally contaminated ringed seals (Pusa hispida). Environmental Science and Technology, 48 (21), 12952-12961.