Biomarker responses of Peromyscus leucopus exposed to lead and cadmium in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District

  • W. Nelson Beyer
  • Stan W. Casteel
  • Kristen R. Friedrichs
  • Eric Gramlich
  • Ruth A. Houseright
  • John R. Nichols
  • Natalie K. Karouna-Renier
  • Dae Young Kim
  • Kathleen L. Rangen
  • Barnett A. Rattner
  • Sandra L. Schultz


Biomarker responses and histopathological lesions have been documented in laboratory mammals exposed to elevated concentrations of lead and cadmium. The exposure of white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) to these metals and the potential associated toxic effects were examined at three contaminated sites in the Southeast Missouri Lead Mining District and at a reference site in MO, USA. Mice from the contaminated sites showed evidence of oxidative stress and reduced activity of red blood cell δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (ALAD). Histological examinations of the liver and kidney, cytologic examination of blood smears, and biomarkers of lipid peroxidation and DNA damage failed to show indications of toxic effects from lead. The biomagnification factor of cadmium (hepatic concentration/soil concentration) at a site with a strongly acid soil was 44 times the average of the biomagnification factors at two sites with slightly alkaline soils. The elevated concentrations of cadmium in the mice did not cause observable toxicity, but were associated with about a 50% decrease in expected tissue lead concentrations and greater ALAD activity compared to the activity at the reference site. Lead was associated with a decrease in concentrations of hepatic glutathione and thiols, whereas cadmium was associated with an increase. In addition, to support risk assessment efforts, we developed linear regression models relating both tissue lead dosages (based on a previously published a laboratory study) and tissue lead concentrations in Peromyscus to soil lead concentrations.


Toxicity White-footed mice Superfund site Biomarker ALAD 



We thank Catherine Maddox for assistance with the hepatic biomarker analyses. David Hoffman of the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and 2 anonymous reviewers provided helpful suggestions on the manuscript. This work was partly funded by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Natural Resource Damage and Restoration Program. Use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government. Supplemental data are available at the US Geological Survey ScienceBase-Catalog website at

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Nelson Beyer
    • 1
  • Stan W. Casteel
    • 2
  • Kristen R. Friedrichs
    • 3
  • Eric Gramlich
    • 4
  • Ruth A. Houseright
    • 3
  • John R. Nichols
    • 4
  • Natalie K. Karouna-Renier
    • 1
  • Dae Young Kim
    • 2
  • Kathleen L. Rangen
    • 4
  • Barnett A. Rattner
    • 1
  • Sandra L. Schultz
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterBeltsvilleUSA
  2. 2.College of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Missouri Department of Natural ResourcesJefferson CityUSA

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