CYTOCHROME P450 1A1 EXPRESSION IN CETACEAN INTEGUMENT: IMPLICATIONS FOR DETECTING CONTAMINANT EXPOSURE AND EFFECTS

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Abstract

Contaminant related health risks to marine mammals are typically inferred from the levels of contaminants measured in blubber. Such measurements alone are insufficient to indicate the likelihood of biological effects from contaminant exposure, especially for contaminants that do not bioaccumulate. Cytochrome P450 1A1 (CYP1A1) in mammals is induced by, and involved in, the metabolism of planar halogenated aromatic hydrocarbons and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, chemicals of concern in aquatic systems. CYP1A induction is a molecular response to exposure to these inducers in many vertebrates. Using immunohistochemistry, we semiquantitatively measured CYP1A1 expression in integument (epidermis and blubber) collected by biopsy or at necropsy from 17 species of cetaceans. CYP1A1 expression was detected in all species and, in some cases, varied both within and between species. CYP1A1 expression in mysticetes was comparable to that in odontocetes. Assessing how the differences in contaminant burdens, life history parameters, and physiological condition between individuals, populations, or species affect CYP1A1 expression in cetacean integument is essential to the interpretation of this induction as a biomarker of exposure to and effects of contaminants. Detection of CYP1A1 expression in integument samples offers a relatively simple, non-lethal technique to study biological changes associated with contaminant exposure in cetaceans.

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