, Volume 28, Issue 9, pp 1126–1135 | Cite as

Embryonic Fundulus heteroclitus responses to sediment extracts from differentially contaminated sites in the Elizabeth River, VA

  • Savannah J. Volkoff
  • Joshua S. Osterberg
  • Nishad Jayasundara
  • Ellen Cooper
  • Heileen Hsu-Kim
  • Laura Rogers
  • Gretchen E. Gehrke
  • Saro Jayaraman
  • Richard T. Di GiulioEmail author


Sites along the Elizabeth River are contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from historical creosote production and other industrial processes. Previous studies have demonstrated that Atlantic killifish collected from sites throughout the Elizabeth River display resistance to the teratogenic effects of PAH-exposure in a manner commensurate with sediment PAH concentrations. The current study characterized various chemical pollutants in sediment and investigated the effects of aqueous sediment extracts from sites along the Elizabeth River to the cardiac development of Atlantic killifish embryos from fish collected from an uncontaminated reference site. Embryonic cardiac deformities were more prevalent after exposure to extracts from sites with high PAH loads. However, activation of cytochrome P4501A, a gene up-regulated by PAH-induction of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor and measured using an in ovo EROD assay, did not consistently increase with PAH concentrations. This work further characterizes sediments in the Elizabeth River, as well as provides insight into the evolutionary pressures at each ER site.


Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons Teratogenesis CYP P4501A Aryl hydrocarbon receptor 



We thank Dr. Michael Unger and George Vadas of Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) for their support in collecting sediment from the Republic field site. We authors also thank Marc Gutterman (USACE) for allowing us access to the Atlantic Wood Industries site and for assisting with sediment collection.


This work was funded by the NIEHS-sponsored Duke University Superfund Research Center (P42ES010356).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement or recommendation for use. All applicable institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Savannah J. Volkoff
    • 1
  • Joshua S. Osterberg
    • 1
  • Nishad Jayasundara
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ellen Cooper
    • 1
  • Heileen Hsu-Kim
    • 3
  • Laura Rogers
    • 3
  • Gretchen E. Gehrke
    • 3
  • Saro Jayaraman
    • 4
  • Richard T. Di Giulio
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.School of Marine SciencesUniversity of MaineOronoUSA
  3. 3.Pratt School of EngineeringDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.United States Environmental Protection AgencyNarragansettUSA

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