• mussels;
  • biomarkers;
  • municipal effluents;
  • toxicity


The toxicological effects of a primary-treated municipal effluent plume were investigated in two species of freshwater mussels, Elliptio complanata and Dreissena polymorpha, exposed for 62 days at sites upstream and downstream of an effluent outfall in the St. Lawrence River (Quebec, Canada). Levels of metallothioneins (MT), cytochrome P4501A1 activity, DNA damage, total lipids, relative levels of vitellins, and phagocytic activity (in E. complanata hemocytes) were determined after the exposure period. A parallel analysis measured heavy metals and coprostanol in mussel tissues. The results show that significant levels of coprostanol and some metals (specifically, Cu, Hg, Sb, Se, and Zn) had accumulated in mussels caged 5 km downstream of the effluent plume. Mixed-function oxidase activity, MT in gills, total lipids, DNA damage (in D. polymorpha only), and total hemolymph bacteria (in E. complanata only) had increased in these mussels, while levels of total cadmium (Cd), MT in digestive glands or whole soft tissues, phagocytic activity, and DNA damage in the digestive gland (in E. complanata only) were diminished. The exposure of mussels to surface waters contaminated by a municipal effluent led to many stress responses, depending on both the tissues and the species being examined. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Environ Toxicol 17: 149–159, 2002; Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI 10.1002/tox.10046