, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 402–410 | Cite as

Changes in metallothionein transcription levels in the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis exposed to CdTe quantum dots

  • Thiago Lopes Rocha
  • Eider Bilbao
  • Cátia Cardoso
  • Manu Soto
  • Maria João Bebianno


Quantum dots (QDs) are a class of engineered nanoparticles (ENPs) with several biomedical, industrial and commercial applications. However, their metabolism and detoxification process in aquatic invertebrates and environmental health hazards remain unclear. This study investigate the transcriptional changes of metallothioneins (MTs) isoforms (mt10IIIa and mt20IV) induced by CdTe QDs, in comparison with its dissolved counterpart, in the marine mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Mussels were exposed to CdTe QDs and to the same Cd concentration (10 µg Cd L−1) of dissolved Cd for 14 days and mt transcription levels were measured by real time quantitative PCR (qPCR). Tissue specific mt transcription patterns were observed in mussels exposed to both Cd forms, wherein the gills were a more sensitive organ compared to the digestive gland. No significant changes were observed in mt10IIIa transcription levels in mussels exposed to both Cd forms. In contrast, transcription of mt20IV was tissue and exposure time dependent, with higher mt20IV mRNA levels in mussels exposed to QDs and dissolved Cd when compared to unexposed mussels. Multivariate analysis indicates particle-specific effects after 14 days of exposure and a dual role of MTs in the QD metabolism and in the protection against oxidative stress in mussels exposed to Cd-based ENPs.


Nanoparticles Gene transcription Ecotoxicity Biomarkers. 



This work was funded by the Science Without Borders Program (239524/2012-8) from the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), by Postdoctoral National Program (PNPD) from the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) and by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) project (NANOECOTOX; PTDC/AAC-AMB/ 121650/2010). This work was also supported by the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) through the grant UID/MAR/00350/2013 attributed to CIMA of the University of Algarve. The authors also acknowledge Dr. Margarida Ribau Teixeira and Vânia Serrão Sousa (CENSE, FCT, UAlg) for his collaboration in the NP characterization.

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.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary Table 1
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Supplementary Table 2
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Supplementary Table Legends


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thiago Lopes Rocha
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eider Bilbao
    • 3
  • Cátia Cardoso
    • 1
  • Manu Soto
    • 3
  • Maria João Bebianno
    • 1
  1. 1.CIMA, Faculty of Science and TechnologyUniversity of AlgarveFaroPortugal
  2. 2.Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology and Ecotoxicology, Institute of Tropical Pathology and Public HealthFederal University of GoiásGoiâniaBrazil
  3. 3.CBET Research Group, Department of Zoology & Animal Cell Biology, Faculty of Science & Technology and Research Centre for Experimental Marine Biology and Biotechnology PIEUniversity of the Basque Country UPV/EHUBasque CountrySpain

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