Physiological and biochemical impacts induced by mercury pollution and seawater acidification in Hediste diversicolor

The present study evaluated the impacts of predicted seawater acidification and Hg pollution, when stressors were acting alone and in combination, on the polychaete Hediste diversicolor. Polychaetes were exposed during 28 days to low pH (7.5), Hg (5 μg/L) and pH 7.5 + Hg, and physiological alterations (respiration rate), biochemical markers related to metabolic potential (glycogen and protein content, electron transport system activity) and oxidative status (activity of antioxidant and biotransformation enzymes, lipid peroxidation) were evaluated. The results obtained clearly showed that polychaetes were sensitive to low pH and Hg contamination, both acting alone or in combination. Organisms used their energy reserves under stressful conditions, which decreased by up to half of the control content, probably to fuel defence mechanisms. Our findings further demonstrated that polychaetes exposed to these stressors presented increased antioxidant defence mechanisms (3 fold compared to control). However, organisms were not able to prevent cellular damage, especially noticed at Hg exposure and pH 7.5. Overall, although all the tested conditions induced oxidative stress in Hediste diversicolor, the combined effect of seawater acidification and Hg contamination did not induce higher impacts in polychaetes than single stressor exposures. These findings may indicate that predicted climate change scenarios may not increase Hediste diversicolor sensitivity towards Hg and may not significantly change the toxicity of this contaminant to this polychaete species.

Freitas R., de Marchi L., Moreira A., Pestana J. L. T., Wrona F. J., Figueira E. & Soares A. M. V. M., 2017. Physiological and biochemical impacts induced by mercury pollution and seawater acidification in Hediste diversicolor. Science of The Total Environment 595:691–701. Article (subscription required).


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