, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 365–376 | Cite as

Evolutionary toxicology: contaminant-induced genetic mutations in mosquitofish from Sumgayit, Azerbaijan

  • Brian P. Rinner
  • Cole W. Matson
  • Arif Islamzadeh
  • Thomas J. McDonald
  • Kirby C. Donnelly
  • John W. Bickham


This study builds on a long-term program that has shown Sumgayit, Azerbaijan to contain wetlands with high levels of a diversity of chemical contaminants. Previous contaminant and biomarker studies of turtles and frogs showed a correlation between somatic chromosomal damage and chemical contaminants at Sumgayit. The objective of this study was to determine if a recently arrived species (mosquitofish) has genetic impacts similar to native species (marsh frogs) thus confirming the pattern is not the result of historical events such as glacial cycles, but is associated with recent chemical contamination. Nucleotide sequences of the mtDNA control region of invasive mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) from Sumgayit were compared to mosquitofish from pristine sites in Europe and Azerbaijan and to native North American populations. Persistent heteroplasmy for a hyper-mutable simple sequence repeat and low haplotype and nucleotide diversities were observed in all invasive populations. However, Sumgayit possessed four de novo haplotypes and heteroplasmic conditions. All of the observed variable nucleotide positions were within or adjacent to a cytosine mononucleotide repeat. This repeat was within a conserved secondary structure; the region likely undergoes expansion and contraction at a rate sufficient to prevent fixation of the common 1/3 heteroplasmy. Whereas the 1/3 heteroplasmy appeared coincident with the establishment of mosquitofish in Europe, other forms of heteroplasmy resulted from contaminant-induced de novo mutations in Sumgayit. We conclude that Sumgayit is a mutational hotspot caused by legacy contaminants from chemical factories from the era of the Soviet Union.


Azerbaijan Evolutionary toxicology Heteroplasmy Induced mutations Gambusia holbrooki 



We thank A. A. Mekhtiev, G. Palatnikov, R. Kasimov, G. Kuliev and E. Askerov for logistical support and assistance in Azerbaijan. We thank the members of the MS advisory committee of B.P.R. for their advice and thoughtful review of the thesis: A. DeWoody, K. Nichols, and M. Zanis. We thank the following people for help in obtaining specimens: M. A. Pinto, I. Caliani, M. C. Fossi, V. Caputo, and E. Olmo. This article is modified from the MS thesis of B. P. R. Partial funding was provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Superfund Basic Research Programs grant ES04917, by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc. awarded through Purdue University Center for the Environment at Discovery Park, and by the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University. This article is dedicated to the memory of the late K.C. Donnelly in recognition of his unfailing support for the study of human health, ecotoxicology, and the environmental crisis in Sumgayit. His kindness, energy, leadership and friendship are sorely missed.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian P. Rinner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Cole W. Matson
    • 3
  • Arif Islamzadeh
    • 4
  • Thomas J. McDonald
    • 5
  • Kirby C. Donnelly
    • 6
  • John W. Bickham
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Center for the EnvironmentPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Center for the Environmental Implications of NanoTechnology (CEINT)Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Sumgayit Centre for Environmental RehabilitationSumgayitAzerbaijan
  5. 5.School of Rural Public HealthTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  6. 6.Department of Veterinary Anatomy and Public HealthTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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