Low-level embryonic crude oil exposure disrupts ventricular ballooning and subsequent trabeculation in Pacific herring
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Low-level embryonic crude oil exposure disrupts ventricular ballooning and subsequent trabeculation in Pacific herring

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  • Journal Title:
    Aquatic Toxicology
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    There is a growing awareness that transient, sublethal embryonic exposure to crude oils cause subtle but important forms of delayed toxicity in fish. While the precise mechanisms for this loss of individual fitness are not well understood, they involve the disruption of early cardiogenesis and a subsequent pathological remodeling of the heart much later in juveniles. This developmental cardiotoxicity is attributable, in turn, to the inhibitory actions of crude oil-derived mixtures of polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) on specific ion channels and other proteins that collectively drive the rhythmic contractions of heart muscle cells via excitation-contraction coupling. Here we exposed Pacific herring (Clupea pallasi) embryos to oiled gravel effluent yielding ΣPAC concentrations as low as ~ 1 μg/L (64 ng/g in tissues). Upon hatching in clean seawater, and following the depuration of tissue PACs (as evidenced by basal levels of cyp1a gene expression), the ventricles of larval herring hearts showed a concentration-dependent reduction in posterior growth (ballooning). This was followed weeks later in feeding larvae by abnormal trabeculation, or formation of the finger-like projections of interior spongy myocardium, and months later with hypertrophy (overgrowth) of the spongy myocardium in early juveniles. Given that heart muscle cell differentiation and migration are driven by Ca2+-dependent intracellular signaling, the observed disruption of ventricular morphogenesis was likely a secondary (downstream) consequence of reduced calcium cycling and contractility in embryonic cardiomyocytes. We propose defective trabeculation as a promising phenotypic anchor for novel morphometric indicators of latent cardiac injury in oil-exposed herring, including an abnormal persistence of cardiac jelly in the ventricle wall and cardiomyocyte hyperproliferation. At a corresponding molecular level, quantitative expression assays in the present study also support biomarker roles for genes known to be involved in muscle contractility (atp2a2, myl7, myh7), cardiomyocyte precursor fate (nkx2.5) and ventricular trabeculation (nrg2, and hbegfa). Overall, our findings reinforce both proximal and indirect roles for dysregulated intracellular calcium cycling in the canonical fish early life stage crude oil toxicity syndrome. More work on Ca2+-mediated cellular dynamics and transcription in developing cardiomyocytes is needed. Nevertheless, the highly specific actions of ΣPAC mixtures on the heart at low, parts-per-billion tissue concentrations directly contravene classical assumptions of baseline (i.e., non-specific) crude oil toxicity.
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    Aquatic Toxicology, 235, 105810
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    Accepted Manuscript
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