Individual variation in body burden, lipid status, and reproductive investment is related to maternal transfer of a brominated diphenyl ether (BDE-99) to eggs in the zebra finch



Avian eggs are exposed to hydrophobic contaminants through maternal transfer. How maternal transfer of contaminants within a species is influenced by individual variation in characteristics such as body burden, yolk precursor levels, or reproductive investment is not understood. The authors investigated sources of variation in the maternal transfer of 2,2′,4,4′,5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). The authors dosed adult female zebra finches with levels of BDE-99 relevant to exposure in wild birds (0, 33.7 or 173.8 ng/g body wt/d) for three weeks prior to pairing. Maternal BDE-99 and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) in plasma were measured during egg formation and at clutch completion, and BDE-99 was measured in the corresponding egg. The lipid-normalized egg-to-maternal tissue BDE-99 relationship decreased with increasing maternal burden. Individual variation in maternal VLDL was related to BDE-99 transfer to the eggs when BDE-99 was at background levels in control birds, but not when BDE-99 was elevated in dosed birds. The decrease in maternal plasma BDE-99 over the laying period was only significant (p < 0.05) in the high-dose birds. Finally, the decrease in BDE-99 in maternal plasma during egg-laying was significantly positively correlated with clutch mass in the high-dose group. These results suggest that the relationship between maternal and egg contaminant levels can be highly variable. This has significant implications for using eggs as indicators of adult or environmental concentrations. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2013;32:345–352. © 2012 SETAC