Potential effects of environmental contaminants on P450 aromatase activity and DNA damage in swallows from the Rio Grande and Somerville, Texas
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Cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and cave swallows (P. fulva) were sampled during the breeding season at several locations in the Rio Grande, Texas, to evaluate the potential effects of environmental contaminants on P450 aromatase activity in brain and gonads and DNA damage in blood cells. The tritiated water-release aromatase assay was used to measure aromatase activity and flow cytometry was used to measure DNA damage in nucleated blood cells. There were no significant differences in brain and gonadal aromatase activities or in estimates of DNA damage (HPCV values) among cave swallow colonies from the Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) and Somerville. However, both brain and gonadal aromatase activities were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in male cliff swallows from Laredo than in those from Somerville. Also, DNA damage estimates were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in cliff swallows (males and females combined) from Laredo than in those from Somerville. Contaminants of current high use in the LRGV, such as atrazine, and some of the highly persistent organochlorines, such as toxaphene and DDE, could be potentially associated with modulation of aromatase activity in avian tissues. Previous studies have indicated possible DNA damage in cliff swallows. We did not observe any differences in aromatase activity or DNA damage in cave swallows that could be associated with contaminant exposure. Also, the differences in aromatase activity and DNA damage between male cliff swallows from Laredo and Somerville could not be explained by contaminants measured at each site in previous studies. Our study provides baseline information on brain and gonadal aromatase activity in swallows that could be useful in future studies.