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Alteration of the biochemical properties of female gonads and vitellins in the clam Mya arenaria at contaminated sites in the Saguenay Fjord


Alteration of the biochemical properties of female gonads and vitellins in the clam Mya arenaria at contaminated sites in the Saguenay Fjord



Marine Environmental Research 53(3): 295-310



ISSN/ISBN: 0141-1136

PMID: 11939294

DOI: 10.1016/s0141-1136(01)00122-2

Vitellins (Vn) are the major egg yolk proteins that constitute an important energy reserve for mollusc embryos. The purpose of the present study was to examine whether the relative levels of sugars, lipids, phosphates, and labile IIb metals and calcium normally associated with Vn would differ in clam populations living at contaminated sites. Softshell clams (Mya arenaria) were collected at three sites in the area of the Saguenay Fjord: a marina, a municipal sewer outfall zone, and a reference site. The condition factor (weight:length ratio), metallothionein-like proteins, cytochrome P450 1A1 activity and DNA damage were all determined in the clam's digestive gland. Levels of total sugars, lipids, alkali-labile phosphates, proteins, and labile zinc and calcium were determined in female gonad homogenates and in purified Vn. The results show that clam gonads at the contaminated site by a marina displayed a lower index of gonad activity than the reference site. In addition, the condition factor was significantly lower at the marina site as compared to the reference site, with a concomitant increase in DNA damage and metallothionein (MT) induction. In fact, the condition factor was significantly correlated with DNA damage (R = -0.413, P = 0.045) and MT levels (R = -0.622, P = 0.03). Homogenates of female gonads were found to contain higher levels of labile IIb metals and calcium, with lower lipid content at the marina site compared to the reference site, and much higher levels of alkali-labile phosphates (ALP) and calcium at the municipal outfall site. Vn from the marina site were significantly higher in labile IIb metals but lipid content appeared to be somewhat lower than at the reference site. Vn from the municipal site were found to be highly phosphorylated, with higher levels of lipids and calcium. These results suggest that the chemical composition of the gonads and Vn are altered in contaminated sites.

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