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Enzymatic biomarkers as tools to assess environmental quality: A case study of exposure of the honeybee Apis mellifera to insecticides


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The present study was intended to evaluate the responses of enzymes in the honeybee Apis mellifera after exposure to deltamethrin, fipronil, and spinosad and their use as biomarkers. After determination of the median lethal doses (LD50), honeybees were exposed at doses of 5.07 ng/bee and 2.53 ng/bee for deltamethrin, 0.58 ng/bee and 0.29 ng/bee for fipronil, and 4.71 ng/bee and 2.36 ng/bee for spinosad (equivalent to 1/10th [LD50/10] and 1/20th [LD50/20] of the LD50, respectively). The responses of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), carboxylesterases (CaEs-1–3), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), catalase (CAT), and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) were assessed. The results showed that deltamethrin, fipronil, and spinosad modulated these biomarkers differentially. For the enzyme involved in the defense against oxidative stress, fipronil and spinosad induced CAT activity. For the remaining enzymes, 3 response profiles were identified. First, exposure to deltamethrin induced slight effects and modulated only CaE-1 and CaE-2, with opposite effects. Second, spinosad exhibited an induction profile for most of the biomarkers, except AChE. Third, fipronil did not modulate AChE, CaE-2, or GST, increased CAT and CaE-1, and decreased ALP. Thus, this set of honeybee biomarkers appears to be a promising tool to evaluate environmental and honeybee health, and it could generate fingerprints to characterize exposures to pesticides. Environ Toxicol Chem 2013;32:2117–2124. © 2013 SETAC