Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety (Feb 2021)

Inorganic mercury effects on biomarker gene expressions of a freshwater amphipod at two temperatures

  • Madson Silveira de Melo,
  • Krishna Das,
  • Eric Gismondi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 209
p. 111815


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Mercury (Hg) is a global contaminant resulting of both natural processes and human activities. In aquatic environments, studies conducted on vertebrates highlighted changes of gene expression or activity of antitoxic and oxidative enzymes. However, although Hg is a highly toxic compound in aquatic environments, only a few studies have evaluated the lethal and sublethal effects of inorganic Hg on Gammarus sp. Therefore, this study aimed at evaluating the effects of inorganic Hg (HgCl2) on the expression of 17 genes involved in crucial biological functions or mechanisms for organisms, namely respiration, osmoregulation, apoptosis, immune and endocrine system, and antioxidative and antitoxic defence systems. The study was performed in males of the freshwater amphipod Gammarus pulex exposed to two environmentally relevant concentrations (50 and 500 ng/L) at two temperature regime fluctuations (16 °C and 20 °C +/−2 °C) for 7 and 21 days. Results showed that G. pulex mortality was dependent on Hg concentration and temperature; the higher the concentration and temperature, the higher the mortality rate. In addition, the Integrated Biomarker Response emphasized that HgCl2 toxicity was dependent on the concentration, time and temperature of exposure. Overall, antioxidant and antitoxic defences, as well as the endocrine and immune systems, were the biological functions most impacted by Hg exposure (based on the concentration, duration, and temperature tested). Conversely, osmoregulation was the least affected biological function. The results also demonstrated a possible adaptation of G. pulex after 21 days at 500 ng/L, regardless of the exposure temperature. This study allowed us to show that Hg deregulates many crucial biological functions after a short exposure, but that during a long exposure, an adaptation phenomenon could occur, regardless of temperature.