The white mullet (Mugil curema) as biological indicator to assess environmental stress in tropical coastal lagoons

  • Alejandra García-Gasca
  • Julián Ríos-Sicairos
  • Rubí Hernández-Cornejo
  • Isabel Cunha
  • Jesús N. Gutiérrez
  • Héctor Plascencia-González
  • Luz María García de la Parra
  • Selene Abad-Rosales
  • Miguel Betancourt-Lozano


Several coastal lagoons and estuaries in Mexico receive untreated domestic and industrial discharges which contain complex mixtures of contaminants. In order to assess the effects of chemical contamination, we used the White mullet (Mugil curema) as biological indicator. We worked in two estuaries located in Northwest Mexico: Urias (highly polluted) and Teacapan (less polluted, therefore used as reference site). We measured several endpoints at different levels of biological organization: vitellogenin transcription in males as biomarker of estrogenic contamination, as well as reproductive, morphological (deformities), morphometric, and meristic parameters. Total RNA was isolated from the liver, and a partial sequence of the mullet vitellogenin gene was obtained; gene expression was analyzed by quantitative PCR. At the same time, gonad samples were analyzed by histologic techniques to determine sex ratios and the reproductive cycle stage. The reproductive season was detected from February to June in both sites, but the gonadosomatic index was consistently higher in Teacapan. Sex ratios were female-biased in both estuaries, and one intersex gonad and several malformations were found in fish from Urias. Vitellogenin gene transcription in males was detected in both sites, although gene expression was slightly higher in Urias. The results obtained in this study indicate that biological effects of contamination are evident in fish, environmental estrogens may be present in both estuaries, and the white mullet is useful as biological indicator to identify and characterize environmental stressors in tropical coastal ecosystems.


Coastal lagoons Contamination Deformities Mugil curema Vitellogenin expression Reproduction 



We extend our gratitude to Perla Estañol and Yendi González for technical assistance and Emma Fajer, Adriana García, Any Rodríguez, Johnny Vargas, Daniel Leyva, Jazmín Sarmiento, and fishermen Juan Sarmiento, Inés Pardo, Jesús de la Rosa, and Hipólito Holague for their invaluable help during sample collection and processing. This study was supported by a CONACyT grant (J-34976-T) and a CIAD grant (6250-1) awarded to MBL and AGG, respectively.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alejandra García-Gasca
    • 1
  • Julián Ríos-Sicairos
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rubí Hernández-Cornejo
    • 1
  • Isabel Cunha
    • 3
  • Jesús N. Gutiérrez
    • 4
  • Héctor Plascencia-González
    • 1
  • Luz María García de la Parra
    • 1
  • Selene Abad-Rosales
    • 1
  • Miguel Betancourt-Lozano
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y DesarrolloMazatlánMexico
  2. 2.Escuela de BiologíaUniversidad Autónoma de SinaloaCuliacánMexico
  3. 3.Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e AmbientalPortoPortugal
  4. 4.Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del NoroesteLa PazMexico

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