Assessment of In Vivo Effects of the Prestige Fuel Oil Spill on the Mediterranean Mussel Immune System
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A laboratory experiment was carried out to study immune function alteration of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis when exposed to the Prestige oil spilled in November 2002 on the northwestern Spanish coast. Mussels were maintained for 4 months in tanks with flowing seawater and with 1, 2, and 0 kg (controls) Prestige fuel oil. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon concentrations, which were determined in gills and digestive glands, were higher in digestive glands. The methylphenantrene and dibenzothiophene profiles confirmed the real exposure of mussels to the fuel oil. Immune data analysis revealed that no differences between fuel-treated and control animals were found in the cellular immune parameters measured (hemocyte viability, phagocytic activity, nitric oxide production, and chemiluminescence emission). In addition, histologic observations did not reveal tissue lesions in any of the samples, probably because of the short time of fuel-oil exposure. In contrast, significant differences were found in serum protein concentration and lysozyme activity between the fuel-treated mussels and controls. However, these humoral immune parameters were dependant on numerous environmental and physiologic factors, so it was difficult to ascertain the real effect of the fuel oil on their variability. Because hemocytes are the primary line of defense of bivalve mollusks, the results obtained in the present study suggest that the mussel immune system was not significantly affected by exposure to the Prestige fuel oil.
KeywordsPAHs Digestive Gland Hemocyte Lysozyme Activity Serum Protein Concentration
This work was financially supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (VEM2003-20068-C05-01). The investigators thank L. Ortiz for technical assistance with the PAH analysis.
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