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Juhel, Guillaume and O'Halloran, John and Culloty, Sarah C. and O'Riordan, Ruth M. and Davenport, John and O'Brien, Nora M. and James, Kevin F. and Furey, Ambrose and Allis, Orla
Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
In vivo exposure to microcystins induces DNA damage in the haemocytes of the zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha, as measured with the comet assay
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The Comet assay was used to investigate the potential of the biotoxin microcystin (MC) to induce DNA damage in the freshwater zebra mussel, Dreissena polymorpha. Mussels maintained in the laboratory were fed daily, over a 21-day period, with one of four strains of the cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa. Three of the strains produced different profiles of MC toxin, while the fourth strain did not produce MCs. The mussels were sampled at 0, 7, 14, and 21 days by withdrawing haemocytes from their adductor muscle. In addition, a positive control was performed by exposing a subsample of the mussels to water containing cadmium chloride (CdCl2). Cell viability, measured with the Fluorescein Diacetate/Ethidium Bromide test, indicated that the MC concentrations, to which the mussels were exposed, were not cytotoxic to the haemocytes. The Comet assay performed on the haemocytes indicated that exposure to CdCl2 produced a dose-responsive increase in DNA damage, demonstrating that mussel haemocytes were sensitive to DNA-damaging agents. DNA damage, measured as percentage tail DNA (%tDNA), was observed in mussels exposed to the three toxic Microcystis strains, but not in mussels exposed to the nontoxic strain. Toxin analysis of the cyanobacterial cultures confirmed that the three MC-producing strains exhibit different toxin profiles, with the two MC variants detected being MC-LF and MC-LR. Furthermore, the DNA damage that was observed appeared to be strain-specific, with high doses of MC-LF being associated with a higher level of genotoxicity than low concentrations of MC-LR. High levels of MC-LF also seemed to induce relatively more persistent DNA damage than small quantities of MC-LR. This study is the first to demonstrate that in vivo exposure to MC-producing strains of cyanobacteria induces DNA damage in the haemocytes of zebra mussels and confirms the sublethal toxicity of these toxins.
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