Characterization of the recalcitrant CYP1 phenotype found in Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting a Superfund site on the Elizabeth River, VA.
ABSTRACT Fundulus heteroclitus (Atlantic killifish) found at the Atlantic Wood Industries Superfund site on the Elizabeth River (ER) in Portsmouth, VA (USA), have been shown to be resistant to the teratogenic effects of creosote-contaminated sediments found at this highly contaminated site. Many of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) found at the ER are known to activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), and are thought to mediate their toxic effects through this pathway. Activation of the AHR results in the induction of several Phase I and II metabolic enzymes. It has been previously shown that the AHR of killifish from the ER are refractory to induction by AHR agonists. To more fully characterize this altered AHR response, we exposed embryos from the ER and from a reference site on King's Creek, VA (KC) to two PAHs, benzo[alpha]pyrene (BaP) and benzo[k]fluoranthene (BkF), and to the dioxin-like compound (DLC), 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126). We compared their developmental and molecular responses by screening the embryos for CYP1A enzyme activity, cardiac deformities, and mRNA expression of CYP1A, CYP1B1, CYP1C1, and AHR2. Basal gene expression of both CYP1A and CYP1B1 was 40% higher in the KC control embryos compared to those from the ER, while AHR2 and CYP1C1 were not significantly different between the populations. Exposure of KC embryos to BaP, BkF, and PCB126 induced CYP1A activity and cardiac deformities. In contrast, CYP1A activity was induced in ER embryos only in response to BkF exposure, although this induction in ER embryos was significantly lower than that observed in KC fish at comparable concentrations. ER embryos did not develop cardiac deformities in response to any of the chemicals tested. CYP1A, CYP1B1 and CYP1C1 mRNA were all significantly induced in the KC embryos after exposure to BaP, BkF and PCB126. Exposure to BaP and BkF in ER embryos resulted in a significant induction of CYP1A mRNA, albeit significantly lower than observed in KC fish. Interestingly, BaP exposure resulted in induction of CYP1B1 at comparable levels in embryos from both populations. CYP1s were not induced in ER embryos in response to PCB126, nor was CYP1C1 for any treatment examined. Additionally, AHR2 was not significantly induced for any of the treatment groups. This study further characterizes the AHR response in killifish, and provides greater insight into the adapted ER phenotype. The ER adaptation involves the suppression of normal AHR-inducible gene expression for all three CYP1 genes, and therefore is likely an alteration in AHR signaling or control.