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Molluscan shellfish biomarker study of the Quebec, Canada, Saguenay Fjord with the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria

Molluscan shellfish biomarker study of the Quebec, Canada, Saguenay Fjord with the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria

Environmental Toxicology 17(3): 170-186

ISSN/ISBN: 1520-4081

PMID: 12112625

DOI: 10.1002/tox.10048

A spatial and temporal survey of six sites in the Saguenay Fjord and of one adjacent site in the St. Lawrence River estuary (Quebec, Canada) was undertaken to study the possible effects of anthropogenic contaminant input on soft-shell clam (Mya arenaria) populations. Bivalve sampling sites were selected because they reflected a range of areas representative of either no known (or apparent) pollution sources or of areas potentially influenced by different gradients and types of contamination sources. The most upstream site selected in the Saguenay Fjord, nearest to a highly populated and industrialized sector, and the most downstream site, near its mouth with the St. Lawrence River estuary, spanned a distance of some 70 km and encompassed the entire intertidal area suitable for Mya arenaria habitat. To measure effects in collected animals, we used a comprehensive battery of biomarkers composed of metallothionein-like proteins (MT), 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity (EROD), DNA damage (DD), lipid peroxidation (LPO), vitellinlike proteins (Vn), phagocytosis (PHAG), nonspecific esterase (NspE) activity, and condition factor (weight-to-length ratio of clams). Vn, PHAG, DD, and NspE biomarkers were assayed in hemolymph (or hemocytes), whereas others (MT, EROD, LPO) were determined in the digestive gland. Whole-tissue metal content was also quantified in clams collected in the spatial survey. The spatial survey conducted in June 1997 showed significant effects at all sites, and principal component analysis indicated in addition that the more important responses were linked to the MT, LPO, and NspE biomarkers. Clams collected from sites closest to the upstream reaches of the fjord generally displayed higher levels of tissue metals (cadmium, manganese), as well as greater responses of NspE activity, MT, LPO, and PHAG. Animals collected from sites influenced by municipal wastewaters had higher levels of Vn, suggesting the presence of environmental estrogens. The results of the temporal survey (six monthly samplings of clams at three sites from May through October, 1997) showed that the bivalve reproductive cycle (vitellogenesis and spawning) can modulate the expression of several biomarkers. Vn levels, for example, were positively correlated with DD and EROD and negatively correlated with MT, suggesting that reproduction can influence the susceptibility of clams to some contaminants. Discrimination analysis over the 6 months of sampling revealed that the mean value of the discriminant function changed significantly over time, suggesting important changes in the relative contribution of each biomarker. In short, this study has provided evidence that clam populations in the Saguenay Fjord are impacted by multiple sources of contamination whose effects can be modulated by reproduction.

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Accession: 011011709

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