, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 5–23 | Cite as

Immunotoxicity in Invertebrates: Measurement and Ecotoxicological Relevance

  • Tamara S. Galloway
  • Michael H. Depledge


Concern is growing regarding the impact of chemicals suspected of altering the function of the immune system in humans and wildlife. There are numerous examples of links between pollution and increased susceptibility to disease in wildlife species, including immunosuppression in harbour seals feeding on fish from contaminated sites, altered immune function in riverine fish and decreased host resistance in birds exposed to pollutants. Laboratory tests have identified potential immunological hazards posed by a range of anthropogenic chemicals in mammals and higher vertebrates. However, few reports have considered the ecological relevance of pollution-induced immunosuppression in invertebrate phyla, which constitute around 95% of all animal species and occupy key structural and functional roles in ecosystems. In this paper effects of chemicals on immune function in invertebrates are briefly reviewed and biomarkers of immunotoxicity are identified. Examples of new approaches for the measurement of immunological inflammatory reactions and stress in molluscan haemocytes are detailed. The relevance of defining the immune system as a target organ of toxicity in invertebrates is discussed and an integrated approach for the use of immunological biomarkers in environment management is proposed, combining measures of immune function and organismal viability at the biochemical, cellular and population level.

biomarker immunology invertebrate ecotoxicology nitric oxide 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tamara S. Galloway
    • 1
  • Michael H. Depledge
    • 1
  1. 1.Plymouth Environmental Research Centre (Biological Sciences)University of PlymouthPlymouthUnited Kingdom

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