Measures of Resting Immune Function and Related Physiology in Juvenile Rainbow Trout Exposed to a Pulp Mill Effluent

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Juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were exposed to 0, 10, 30, and 70% (v/v) of a secondary-treated, integrated thermomechanical-bleached kraft pulp and paper mill effluent. The immunological parameters oxidative burst and phagocytosis of head kidney macrophages and total and differential circulating leukocytes were measured after 21 d of exposure. General parameters of stress and exposure including erythrocyte counts, numbers of degenerating erythrocytes, splenic pigmented macrophage aggregates (PMAs), spleen size, bile chemistry, and hepatic EROD activity were also assessed. Contrary to parallel chronic studies on the same effluent, EROD induction did not occur. Analyses of bile indicated uptake and accumulation of resin acids and some sterols. There was no measurable macrophage-related immunological dysfunction. However, circulating leukocytes, specifically lymphocytes, were reduced. The density of splenic PMAs increased over the exposure period, possibly in association with degenerating blood cells. There were statistical differences between staggered days of sampling in head kidney oxidative burst, white and mature red blood cell counts, and spleen size, indicating that relatively minor capture and handling stress could result in rapid changes in some parameters. Overall, it was concluded that the observed minor, indirect alterations in the immune response were likely the result predominantly of a nonspecific mechanism such as a cortisol-mediated stress response.