Limitations of metallothioneins in common cockles (Cerastoderma edule) and sponges (Haliclona oculata) as biomarkers of heavy metal contamination in a semi-enclosed coastal area


Poole Harbour is typical of many heavily anthropologically impacted semi-enclosed estuarine coastal areas under pressure from metal pollution across the world. This study examined the physiological significance of metal burdens within that sensitive area, and assessed the potential use of metallothioneins (MT) concentrations in two organisms: the common cockle (Cerastoderma edule) and the Mermaid’s glove sponge (Haliclona oculata) for mapping the spatial extent of the biological response to metal contamination. A spectrophotometric method was applied for detection of MT in the bivalve, and for the first time to detect MT in sponges. The results show that while some metal concentrations in cockle and sponge tissues and in their surrounding environment (water and sediment) could be related to sources of metal contamination, MT values in the soft tissue of cockles and whole tissue of sponges are not. No relation could be found between MT in both cockles and sponges, and any of the tested metals (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Hg, Ni, Ag, Sn, Zn). Furthermore, some of the lowest MT concentrations were detected in heavily polluted areas, indicating that MT concentrations in tested organisms are not exclusively associated with metal concentrations, as other environmental factors could affect induction of this protein. Organisms probably have a high tolerance to metal contamination and chronic exposure to a high level of contamination resulted in developing a variety of detoxification mechanisms. Results indicate that further study of metal stress in this type of ecosystem may need to examine other indicator species and/or apply a different biomonitoring technique

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oaioai:eprints.soton.ac.uk:360906Last time updated on 2/20/2015

This paper was published in e-Prints Soton.

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