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Relationships between gene transcription and contaminant concentrations in Baltic ringed seals: A comparison between tissue matrices

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  • Joy Ometere, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Iben Stokholm, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Miriam Hillmann, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Jens Søndergaard
  • Sara Persson, Swedish Museum of Natural History
  • ,
  • Cynthia A. de Wit, Stockholm University
  • ,
  • Ursula Siebert, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation
  • ,
  • Kristina Lehnert, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation

Ringed seals (Pusa hispida) are slowly recovering in the eastern and northern parts of the Baltic Sea after years of hunting pressure and contaminant exposure. Still, consequences of anthropogenic activities such as contaminant exposure and increasing temperatures are stressors that continue to have deleterious effects on their habitat and health. Transcription profiles of seven health-related genes involved in xenobiotic metabolism, endocrine disruption and stress were evaluated in blood, blubber, and liver of Baltic ringed seals in a multi-tissue approach. Selected persistent organic pollutants and total mercury concentrations were measured in blubber and liver, and muscle and liver of these animals, respectively. Concentrations of contaminants varied across tissues on a lipid weight basis but not with sex. mRNA transcript levels for all seven target genes did not vary between sexes or age classes. Transcript levels of thyroid hormone receptor alpha (TRα), retinoic acid receptor alpha (RARα) and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) correlated with levels of persistent organic pollutants. TRα transcript levels also correlated positively with mercury concentrations in the liver. Of the three tissues assessed in this multi-tissue approach, blubber showed highest transcription levels of aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT), thyroid stimulating hormone receptor beta (TSHβ), oestrogen receptor alpha (ESR1) and peroxisome proliferator activated receptor alpha (PPARα). The wide range of genes expressed highlights the value of minimally invasive sampling (e.g. biopsies) for assessing health endpoints in free-ranging marine wildlife and the importance of identifying optimal matrices for targeted gene expression studies. This gene transcript profile study has provided baseline information on transcript levels of biomarkers for early on-set health effects in ringed seals and will be a useful guide to assess the impacts of environmental change in Baltic pinnipeds for conservation and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106035
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

    Research areas

  • Ecotoxicology, Multi-tissue, Persistent organic pollutants, Pusa hispida, Wildlife health, mRNA transcript

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