• Freshwater mussels;
  • Plant polyphenols;
  • DNA damage and repair;
  • Protein oxidation;
  • Antioxidant activity


The exposure of freshwater mussels Unio tumidus to phenolic compounds (tannic, ellagic and gallic acid) in vivo caused changes in proteins and DNA function of digestive gland cells. The mussels were exposed to various concentrations of tested polyphenols (60, 200 and 500 μM) for 24 and 48 h and their antioxidant and pro-oxidant effects were determined. The number of SH-groups was quantified spectrophotometrically using Ellman's reagent. Oxidative modification of proteins increased in the digestive gland cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. The level of nuclear DNA damage was investigated using the comet assay. The results revealed that polyphenolic acids induce single and double-strand breaks in DNA. The highest changes were observed for tannic and gallic acids and the smallest ones for ellagic acid. 1 h of DNA repair process was also studied using the same method. The data obtained in this experiment demonstrate that the most effective DNA repair occurs in the cells exposed to phenolic compounds for 24 h. A longer incubation (up to 48 h) does not decrease the capacity of the repair mechanism. The antioxidant activity of the tested phenols was analyzed spectrofluorimetrically using a fluorescence probe DCFH-DA (dichlorofluorescein—diacetate). The experimental data showed that the tested acids can act as antioxidants when used at higher doses (200 and 500 μM) against the reactive oxygen species present in the digestive gland cells. The most effective was ellagic acid, also applied at the smallest dose of 60 μM, in comparison with tannic and gallic acids. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that chosen water-soluble polyphenols, which are located in various plant tissues and are also found in the aquatic environment, can influence organisms living in the water. They can be exposed to these chemicals that cause morphological alterations and changes in certain physiological processes in their organs (i.e. digestive gland cells of bivalve molluscs).