Cytochrome P4501A1 expression in blubber biopsies of endangered false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) and nine other odontocete species from Hawai‘i

Abstract

Odontocetes (toothed whales) are considered sentinel species in the marine environment because of their high trophic position, long life spans, and blubber that accumulates lipophilic contaminants. Cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1) is a biomarker of exposure and molecular effects of certain persistent organic pollutants. Immunohistochemistry was used to visualize CYP1A1 expression in blubber biopsies collected by non-lethal sampling methods from 10 species of free-ranging Hawaiian odontocetes: short-finned pilot whale, melon-headed whale, pygmy killer whale, common bottlenose dolphin, rough-toothed dolphin, pantropical spotted dolphin, Blainville’s beaked whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale, sperm whale, and endangered main Hawaiian Islands insular false killer whale. Significantly higher levels of CYP1A1 were observed in false killer whales and rough-toothed dolphins compared to melon-headed whales, and in general, trophic position appears to influence CYP1A1 expression patterns in particular species groups. No significant differences in CYP1A1 were found based on age class or sex across all samples. However, within male false killer whales, juveniles expressed significantly higher levels of CYP1A1 when compared to adults. Total polychlorinated biphenyl (∑PCBs) concentrations in 84 % of false killer whales exceeded proposed threshold levels for health effects, and ∑PCBs correlated with CYP1A1 expression. There was no significant relationship between PCB toxic equivalent quotient and CYP1A1 expression, suggesting that this response may be influenced by agonists other than the dioxin-like PCBs measured in this study. No significant differences were found for CYP1A1 expression among social clusters of false killer whales. This work provides a foundation for future health monitoring of the endangered stock of false killer whales and other Hawaiian odontocetes.

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Acknowledgments

CYP1A1 lab work was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) award NA10NMF4520169 and Hawai‘i Pacific University’s Graduate Trustee’s scholarship. Fieldwork was supported by Grants and contracts to Cascadia Research Collective from the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and Southwest Fisheries Science Center (with support from the United States Navy – N45), the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Office of Naval Research (through the Alaska SeaLife Center/University of Alaska Fairbanks). We would like to thank Daniel Webster, Jessica Aschettino and Greg Schorr for assistance in the field, and Su Fertall White for her technical assistance. Louella Dolar and Karen Martien at Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Renee Albertson at Oregon State University provided genetic analysis, and Sabre Mahaffy confirmed individual and population identity from photographs. We appreciate the PCB analyses provided by Bernie Anulacion, Jennie Bolton, Daryle Boyd, Richard Boyer, Ron Pearce and Catherine Sloan from National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) Northwest Fisheries Science Center. We thank Teri Rowles of the NMFS Office of Protected Resources for her financial support under the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Biopsy samples were collected under NMFS Scientific Research Permits 774-1714 and 14097 held by the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Brenda A. Jensen.

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Foltz, K.M., Baird, R.W., Ylitalo, G.M. et al. Cytochrome P4501A1 expression in blubber biopsies of endangered false killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens) and nine other odontocete species from Hawai‘i. Ecotoxicology 23, 1607–1618 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-014-1300-0

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Keywords

  • Cytochrome P4501A1 (CYP1A1)
  • Pseudorca
  • Hawaiian cetacean
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
  • Blubber dart biopsy
  • Biomarker