Environmental contaminant effects on juvenile striped bass in the San Francisco Estuary, California, USA



The decline of pelagic organisms in the San Francisco Estuary (SFE) (California, USA) is attributed to several factors, including water diversions, invasive species, and exposure to environmental toxicants. The present study evaluated the effects of environmental contaminants on liver vitellogenin, metallothionein, 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD), and benzyloxyresorufin O-deethylase (BROD) activity in juvenile striped bass (Morone saxitilis) in the SFE. Analysis of juvenile striped bass liver extracts revealed site-specific elevations of vitellogenin, metallothionein, and EROD biomarkers across the estuary. Although some striped bass in the estuary showed EROD activity similar to unhandled hatchery controls, several sites in the estuary showed significantly higher EROD activity that was in the range of beta-naphthoflavone (BNF)–injected, positive controls. Overall, EROD activity averaged 283% higher in estuary fish than in hatchery controls. Chemical analyses of extracts from semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) deployed in the estuary for one month showed elevated polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) levels. Semipermeable membrane devices extract injections-induced metallothionein and BROD in striped bass livers. These data show that environmental exposures are impacting EROD and other biomarkers in the SFE striped bass population. Previous studies in our laboratory have associated poor larval development with maternal transfer of environmental contaminants. Further studies are needed to monitor contaminant exposures by the use of biomarkers and to integrate them into a more effective pelagic species recovery plan in the SFE. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011;30:393–402. © 2010 SETAC