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Biomarkers responses and polybrominated diphenyl ethers and their methoxylated analogs measured in Sparus aurata from the Lagoon of Bizerte, Tunisia


This study aimed to the examination of the levels and effects of organobromine compounds (polybrominated diphenyl ethers: PBDEs and methoxylated brominated diphenyl ethers: MeO-PBDEs), in Sparus aurata native to the Lagoon of Bizerte. For that, different biomarkers of exposure (somatic indices, superoxide dismutase, and catalase activities) and effect (malondialdehyde level, histopathologic alterations, and DNA damage) as well as pollutant levels were measured in specimens collected from this impacted ecosystem and the Mediterranean Sea as a reference site. Bizerte Lagoon PBDE fish levels were higher than the Mediterranean Sea, whereas MeO-PBDEs were higher in the reference site. Fish from Bizerte Lagoon presented a higher hepatosomatic index, lower catalase and superoxide dismutase activity, higher level of malondialdehyde, and higher percentage of DNA tail in comparison to fish from the reference area. The histological study of the liver indicated substantial lesions in fish from the polluted site. The results showed strong positive correlations between the concentrations of the PBDE or MeO-PBDE and the MDA and DNA tail % levels and negative correlations for the activities of enzymes of SOD and CAT. Consequently, these findings could suggest a potential link between exposure to these pollutants and the observed biomarker responses in the Bizerte Lagoon seabream. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of biomarker selection and the selected sentinel fish species as useful tools for biomonitoring of aquatic pollution.

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All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.


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The Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (CEMAGUA-CGL2007-64551/HID) and the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientifc Research supported this study. The authors are thankful to R. Chaler, D. Fangul, and M. Comesaña for their help at the mass spectrometry work. We gratefully acknowledge the technical assistance of Joan Serret, David Ramos-López, Javier Gonzalez-Linares, Lydia Camps, Natàlia Brull Barco, and Constança Porredon Guarch in biomarker analysis. The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Deanship of Scientific Research, Saudi Electronic University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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Authors and Affiliations



* Walid Ben Ameur conceived of the presented study.

* Yassine El Megdiche and Takoua Mhadhbi contributed to sample collection and preparation.

* Walid Ben Ameur carried out the chemical compounds extraction from samples with help from Soukaina Ennaceur.

* Walid Ben Ameur carried out the chromatographic analysis of the studied compounds with help from Sihem Ben Hassine.

* Walid Ben Ameur carried out the biomarker analysis with help from Ali Annabi and Joaquin de Lapuente.

* Walid Ben Ameur wrote the manuscript with support from Mohamed Ridha Driss, Miquel Borràs, and Ethel Eljarrat.

* All authors provided critical feedback and helped shape the research, analysis, and manuscript.

* All authors discussed the results and contributed to the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Walid Ben Ameur.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Ben Ameur, W., El Megdiche, Y., Ennaceur, S. et al. Biomarkers responses and polybrominated diphenyl ethers and their methoxylated analogs measured in Sparus aurata from the Lagoon of Bizerte, Tunisia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 29, 38618–38632 (2022).

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  • Sparus aurata
  • PBDEs
  • MeO-PBDEs
  • Biomarkers
  • Bizerte Lagoon
  • Tunisia