Pollution biomarkers in estuarine animals: Critical review and new perspectives

Monserrat, José María; Martínez, Pablo Elías; Monserrat, Laura Alicia Geracitano; Amado, Lílian Lund; Martins, Camila De Martinez Gaspar; Pinho, Grasiela Lopes Leães; Chaves, Isabel Soares; Cravo, Marlize Ferreira; Lima, Juliane Ventura; Bianchini, Adalto


In this review, recent developments in monitoring toxicological responses in estuarine animals are analyzed, considering the biomarker responses to different classes of pollutants. The estuarine environment imposes stressful conditions to the organisms that inhabit it, and this situation can alter their sensitivity to many pollutants. The specificity of some biomarkers like metallothionein tissue concentration is discussed in virtue of its dependence on salinity, which is highly variable in estuaries. Examples of cholinesterase activity measurements are also provided and criteria to select sensitive enzymes to detect pesticides and toxins are discussed. Regarding non-specific biomarkers, toxic responses in terms of antioxidant defenses and/or oxidative damage are also considered in this review, focusing on invertebrate species. In addition, the presence of an antioxidant gradient along the body of the estuarine polychaete Laeonereis acuta (Nereididae) and its relationship to different strategies, which deal with the generation of oxidative stress, is reviewed. Also, unusual antioxidant defenses against environmental pro-oxidants are discussed, including the mucus secreted by L. acuta. Disruption of osmoregulation by pollutants is of paramount importance in several estuarine species. In some cases such as in the estuarine crab Chasmagnathus granulatus, there is a trade off between bioavailability of toxicants (e.g. metals) and their interaction with key enzymes such as Na+–K+-ATPase and carbonic anhydrase. Thus, the metal effect on osmoregulation is also discussed in the present review. Finally, field case studies with fish species like the croaker Micropogonias furnieri (Scianidae) are used to illustrate the application of DNA damage and immunosuppressive responses as potential biomarkers of complex mixture of pollutants.

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