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Copper and zinc contamination in oysters: Subcellular distribution and detoxification



Metal pollution levels in estuarine and coastal environments have been widely reported, but few documented reports exist of severe contamination in specific environments. Here, we report on a metal-contaminated estuary in Fujian Province, China, in which blue oysters (Crassostrea hongkongensis) and green oysters (Crassostrea angulata) were discovered to be contaminated with Cu and other metals. Extraordinarily high metal concentrations were found in the oysters collected from the estuary. Comparison with historical data suggests that the estuary has recently been contaminated with Cr, Cu, Ni, and Zn. Metal concentrations in blue oysters were as high as 1.4 and 2.4% of whole-body tissue dry wt for Cu and Zn, respectively. Cellular debris was the main subcellular fraction binding the metals, but metal-rich granules were important for Cr, Ni, and Pb. With increasing Cu accumulation, its partitioning into the cytosolic proteins decreased. In contrast, metallothionein-like proteins increased their importance in binding with Zn as tissue concentrations of Zn increased. In the most severely contaminated oysters, only a negligible fraction of their Cu and Zn was bound with the metal-sensitive fraction, which may explain the survival of oysters in such contaminated environments. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1767–1774. © 2011 SETAC