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Multiorgan histopathological changes in the juvenile seabream Sparus aurata as a biomarker for zinc oxide particles toxicity

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Abstract

Zinc oxide nanoparticles are widely used in some domains (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals optical devices, and agricultural field) due to their physical, optical, and antimicrobial properties. However, the release of ZnO-NPs into the environment may affect organisms like fish with potential consequences for human health. Histological approaches of the acute effects of these materials on fish are scarce; thus, the present study aimed to investigate the potential toxic effects of acute exposure to ZnO particles in marine environments, by assessing histological changes in the gills, liver, spleen, and muscle of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) juveniles. Thus, fish were exposed for 96 h, via water, to 1 mg L−1 of ionic zinc and zinc oxide particles (1.1, 1.2, and 1.4 μm of size). Histological examination revealed gills as the most affected organ, followed by liver, muscle, and spleen. In the gills, histopathological changes included hyperplasia of epithelial cells, fusion of the secondary lamellae, and lifting of the lamellar epithelium with edema. In the liver, lipid vacuolation of several degrees, necrosis of hepatic and pancreatic tissues, blood congestion in sinusoids and hepatoportal vessels, presence of cellular infiltrate, and melano-macrophages diffusion was found. Muscle showed degeneration, atrophy, thickening and necrosis of muscle fibers with edema between them, and presence of melano-macrophages in the muscle layer. Spleen was the less damaged organ, displaying congested blood, white pulp increase/rupture, and bigger and darker melano-macrophage aggregates in the splenic stroma. These results underline that the size of particles plays a determinant role in their potential pernicious effects. A short-term exposure caused major histopathological changes in relevant organs of S. aurata juveniles, possibly affecting their function.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Funding

Funds were received by Project CICECO-Aveiro Institute of Materials, FCT Ref. UID/CTM/50011/2019, financed by national funds through the FCT/MCTES and BIC/UI189/7424/2016. Thanks are due for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2019), to FCT/MCTES through national funds. MO had financial support of the program Investigator FCT (IF/00335/2015), co-funded by the Human Potential Operational Programme and European Social Fund.

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Correspondence to Miguel Oliveira.

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Beegam, A., Lopes, M., Fernandes, T. et al. Multiorgan histopathological changes in the juvenile seabream Sparus aurata as a biomarker for zinc oxide particles toxicity. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05949-7

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Keywords

  • Zinc oxide particles
  • Fish
  • Biomarkers
  • Histopathology
  • Acute exposure