Whole-body autoradiography: an efficient technique to study copper accumulation and body distribution in small organisms

Pinho, Grasiela Lopes Leães; Bianchini, Adalto; Rouleau, Claude


Copepods have been widely used to evaluate toxicity of metals present in marine environments. However, a technical difficulty is to understand the possible routes of metal uptake and to identify in which tissues or organs metals are being accumulated. Traditional techniques are hard to be employed once each organ has to be analyzed separately. Autoradiography is an alternative technique to circumvent this limitation, since metal distribution in tissues can be visualized and quantified, even in small organisms like copepods. In the present study, accumulation and distribution of 64Cu in the copepod Calanus hyperboreus was studied using autoradiography. Copepods were exposed for 2 h to copper (2.3 mg L 1; 1.08 MBq 64Cu mg 1 Cu) and then allowed to depurate for 2 h in clean seawater. Total 64Cu was determined by gamma-spectrometry after a metal exposure and a depuration period. 64Cu distribution was determined based on images generated by autoradiography. Metal accumulation was observed on all external surfaces of the copepods, being accumulated mostly on the ventral region, followed by dorsal, urossoma and internal regions. After depuration, radioactivity levels had a decrease in the sum of external body surface. Our results show that copper uptake by C. hyperboreus is fast and that a non-negligible proportion of the accumulated metal can reach internal tissues, which may lead to detrimental physiological effects. Moreover, whole-body autoradiography was demonstrated to be an efficient technique to study copper accumulation and body distribution in a very small organism such as the copepod C. hyperboreus.

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