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Rune Dietz

Liver histopathology of Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) over three decades

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  • Britta Schmidt, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Christian Sonne
  • Dominik Nachtsheim, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Peter Wohlsein, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, University of Veterinary Medicine
  • ,
  • Sara Persson, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet
  • ,
  • Rune Dietz
  • Ursula Siebert

The liver plays an important role in the metabolism and elimination of endogenic and exogenic lipid-soluble compounds. Multiple studies have shown that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dichlorodiphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) lead to morphological changes in liver cells. The aim of the present study was therefore to analyse liver changes over time in Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and to correlate these with historical PCB and DDT contaminations. A total of 191 liver samples were collected between 1981 and 2015 in the Gulf of Bothnia and northern Baltic Proper. Six histological features were evaluated, including portal mononuclear cell infiltration, random mononuclear cell infiltration, lipid granulomas, hepatocellular fat vacuoles, hepatic stellate cells and mild multifocal bile duct hyperplasia accompanied by portal fibrosis. Three of the six lesions showed a significant correlation with age. Furthermore, a positive correlation between portal mononuclear cell infiltration and mild multifocal bile duct hyperplasia was found. Additionally, lipid granulomas were significantly correlated with hepatic stellate cells. More importantly, hepatic stellate cells and mild multifocal bile duct hyperplasia were correlated with adipose tissue (blubber) concentrations of ƩPCB, measured in a subsample (n = 34) of all individuals. No correlation with lesions and ƩDDT concentrations were found. These results show that age is an important factor for the development of these liver lesions, but PCBs burden may be an influencing factor. This is in agreement with previous studies of marine mammals in the Baltic Sea as well as in the Arctic. We therefore conclude that not only age of the animals, but also exposure to PCBs should be taken into account when understanding and evaluating the current health status of Baltic grey seals.

TidsskriftEnvironment International
Antal sider8
StatusUdgivet - 2020


  • Baltic grey seal, liver, Histopathology, PCB, ddt

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