Caren C Helbing

University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

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Publications (98)333.55 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Environmental temperature modulates thyroid hormone (TH)-dependent metamorphosis in some amphibian species. The North American bullfrog - Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana - tadpole is naturally adapted to a wide range of temperatures over multiple seasons. Cold temperatures delay while warmer temperatures accelerate metamorphosis. Exogenous TH exposure of premetamorphic tadpoles results in a rapid precocious induction of metamorphosis at warm temperatures (20-25°C). The same exposure at cold temperatures (4-5°C) does not elicit an overt metamorphic response. However, a molecular memory of TH exposure is established such that cold, TH-exposed tadpoles returned to permissive warm temperatures will rapidly execute TH-induced genetic programs. Previous mRNA profiling has identified TH-regulated transcription factors encoded by thra, thrb, thibz, klf9, and cebp1 as components of the molecular memory after one week post-exposure. However, a further hierarchy may exist within the initiation phase since many gene transcripts demonstrated tissue-specific patterns. Whether the molecular memory is organ autonomous or requires additional modulating factors is unknown. Herein we examine tail fin and back skin and determine that thibz is the only transcript that is TH-responsive after 2 days post-exposure at low temperature in both tissues in the intact animal. In back skin, cebp1 is also TH-responsive under these conditions. Serum-free tail fin organ culture (C-Fin) reveals that the thibz response is organ autonomous whereas cultured back skin (C-Skin) results suggest that thibz and cebp1 require an additional factor for induction from elsewhere within the intact animal. Subsequent investigations are now possible to identify endogenous factors that modulate the molecular memory in intact animals.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D Genomics and Proteomics
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    ABSTRACT: A functioning olfactory response is essential for fish to be able to undertake essential behaviors. The majority of work investigating the effects of metals on the olfactory response of fish has focused on single-metal exposures. In this study we exposed rainbow trout to cadmium, copper, nickel, zinc, or a mixture of these four metals at or below the current Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. Measurement of olfactory acuity using an electro-olfactogram demonstrated that cadmium causes significant impairment of the entire olfactory system, while the other three metals or the mixture of all four metals did not. Binary mixtures with cadmium and each of the other metals demonstrated that nickel and zinc, but not copper, protect against cadmium-induced olfactory dysfunction. Testing was done to determine if the protection from cadmium-induced olfactory dysfunction could be explained by binding competition between cadmium and the other metals at the cell surface, or if the protection could be explained by an up-regulation of an intracellular detoxification pathway, namely metallothionein. This study is the first to measure the effects of binary and quaternary metal mixtures on the olfactory response of fish, something that will aid in future assessments of the effects of metals on the environment.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015 · Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • S. Austin Hammond · Christopher J Nelson · Caren C. Helbing
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    ABSTRACT: Herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) and fish represent important sentinel and indicator species for environmental and ecosystem health. It is widely accepted that the epigenome plays an important role in gene expression regulation. Environmental stimuli, including temperature and pollutants, influence gene activity, and there is growing evidence demonstrating that an important mechanism is through modulation of the epigenome. This has been primarily studied in human and mammalian models; relatively little is known about the impact of environmental conditions or pollutants on herpetofauna or fish epigenomes and the regulatory consequences of these changes on gene expression. Herein we review recent studies that have begun to address this deficiency, which have mainly focused on limited specific epigenetic marks and individual genes or large-scale global changes in DNA methylation, owing to the comparative ease of measurement. Greater understanding of the epigenetic influences of these environmental factors will depend on increased availability of relevant species-specific genomic sequence information to facilitate chromatin immunoprecipitation and DNA methylation experiments.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2015 · Biochemistry and Cell Biology
  • Nik Veldhoen · Mitchel R Stevenson · Caren C Helbing
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    ABSTRACT: Postembryonic frog development requires a thyroid hormone (TH)-dependent metamorphic transition from an aquatic larva to a terrestrial frog. Such change in environment involves lung maturation in preparation for breathing air. However, little is known regarding the underlying molecular events and the role of THs in this process. Using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, we evaluated Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana lung mRNA transcripts representing key elements of TH and oxidative stress signaling pathways during natural and TH-induced precocious metamorphosis. TH induction was evaluated in two ways: 1) in vivo through interperitoneal injection of 10pmol/g body weight of 3,3', 5-triiodothyronine (T3) into premetamorphic tadpoles and analysis after 48h, and 2) in serum-free organ culture in the presence of 10nM T3 after 48h. Abundance of transcripts encoding the transcriptional regulators TH receptors α and β, TH-induced bZip protein, and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein 1 was increased during postembryonic development and following administration of exogenous THs to premetamorphic tadpoles in vivo and culture. In contrast, mRNA representing Krüppel-like factor 9 and cold-inducible RNA binding protein revealed differential effects between natural and precocious metamorphosis. Elevated levels of catalase and Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase mRNA were observed at the end of metamorphosis with transcript levels displaying minimal TH-dependency. No change in stress-responsive heat shock protein 30 mRNA abundance was noted. The results support a role for TH-dependent reprogramming of the lung transcriptome during frog development and reveal a requirement for increased antioxidant capacity following anuran metamorphosis.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2015 · Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D Genomics and Proteomics
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    Caren C. Helbing · Charles R. Tyler · Taisen Iguchi

    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Environmental Health Perspectives
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    ABSTRACT: In this work we studied the liver transcriptomes of two frog species, the American bullfrog (Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana) and the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis). We used high throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data to assemble and annotate these transcriptomes, and compared how their baseline expression profiles change when tadpoles of the two species are exposed to thyroid hormone. We generated more than 1.5 billion RNA-seq reads in total for the two species under two conditions as treatment/control pairs. We de novo assembled these reads using Trans-ABySS to reconstruct reference transcriptomes, obtaining over 350,000 and 130,000 putative transcripts for R. catesbeiana and X. laevis, respectively. Using available genomics resources for X. laevis, we annotated over 97% of our X. laevis transcriptome contigs, demonstrating the utility and efficacy of our methodology. Leveraging this validated analysis pipeline, we also annotated the assembled R. catesbeiana transcriptome. We used the expression profiles of the annotated genes of the two species to examine the similarities and differences between the tadpole liver transcriptomes. We also compared the gene ontology terms of expressed genes to measure how the animals react to a challenge by thyroid hormone. Our study reports three main conclusions. First, de novo assembly of RNA-seq data is a powerful method for annotating and establishing transcriptomes of non-model organisms. Second, the liver transcriptomes of the two frog species, R. catesbeiana and X. laevis, show many common features, and the distribution of their gene ontology profiles are statistically indistinguishable. Third, although they broadly respond the same way to the presence of thyroid hormone in their environment, their receptor/signal transduction pathways display marked differences.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: Wildlife and human populations are exposed to anthropogenic mixtures of chemicals in the environment that may adversely influence normal reproductive function and development. We determined the effects of exposure to estrogenic chemicals and wastewater effluent (WWE) on developing gonads of the American bullfrog, Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana, a species whose widespread distribution make it an ideal model for environmental monitoring of endocrine effects of chemical contaminants. Premetamorphic bullfrog tadpoles were exposed to treatment vehicle, 17β-estradiol (E2; 10(-9)M) or 4-tert-octylphenol (OP; 10(-9)M, 10(-8)M, and 10(-7)M). Additionally, gonadal differentiation was evaluated in bullfrog tadpoles from a WWE-containing site versus those from a reference location receiving no WWE. In both studies, phenotypic sex, steroidogenic factor-1 (nr5a1), and aromatase (cyp19a1) mRNA levels using quantitative real-time PCR were determined. Exposure to E2 or OP did not alter sex ratios. In controls, both nr5a1 and cyp19a1 transcript levels exhibited sexual dimorphism, with males demonstrating higher levels of nr5a1 and females greater abundance of cyp19a1. However, E2 exposure increased cyp19a1 mRNA abundance in testes and decreased levels in ovaries, eliminating the sexual dimorphism observed in controls. E2-exposed males exhibited increased nr5a1 transcript levels in the testes compared to controls, while females demonstrated no E2 effect. OP treatment had no effect on female cyp19a1 mRNA abundance, but exposure to 10(-7)M OP increased testicular transcript levels. Treatment with 10(-9) and 10(-8)M OP, but not 10(-7)M, resulted in decreased abundance of nr5a1 transcript in both ovaries and testes. Animals from the field had sexually dimorphic gonadal levels of cyp19a1, but both sexes from the WWE site exhibited elevated cyp19a1 transcript abundance compared to the reference location. Individual chemical compounds and anthropogenic wastewater effluent dispersed within the environment influence the levels of gonadal mRNA encoding key proteins involved in gonadal differentiation. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Science of The Total Environment
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    ABSTRACT: Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in high trophic level species typically reflect the contributions of myriad sources, such that source apportionment is rarely possible. The release of PCBs by a military radar station into Saglek Bay, Labrador contaminated the local marine food web. For instance, while heavier (higher chlorinated) PCB profiles in some ringed seals (Pusa hispida) were previously attributed to this local source, differences in feeding preferences among seals could not be ruled out as a contributing factor. Herein, similar fatty acid profiles between those seals with 'local' PCB profiles and those with 'long-range' or background profiles indicate little support for the possibility that differential feeding ecologies underlay the divergent PCB profiles. Ringed seals appeared to feed predominantly on zooplankton (Mysis oculata and Themisto libellula), followed by the dusky snailfish (Liparis gibbus), arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius). Principal components analysis (PCA) and PCB homolog profiles illustrated the extent of contamination of the Saglek food web, which had very different (and much heavier) PCB profiles than those food web members contaminated by 'long-range' sources. Locally contaminated prey had PCB levels that were higher (2- to 544-fold) than prey contaminated by 'long-range' sources and exceeded wildlife consumption guidelines for PCBs. The application of multivariate analyses to two distinct datasets, including PCB congeners (n=50) and fatty acids (n=65), afforded the opportunity to clearly distinguish the contribution of locally-released PCBs to a ringed seal food web from those delivered via long-ranged transport. Results from the present study strongly suggest that habitat use rather than differences in prey selection is the primary mechanism explaining the divergent PCB patterns in Labrador ringed seals. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Science of The Total Environment
  • S. Austin Hammond · Nik Veldhoen · Caren C Helbing
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    ABSTRACT: Thyroid hormones (THs) are essential for normal growth, development, and metabolic control in vertebrates. Their absolute requirement during amphibian metamorphosis provides a powerful means to detect and assess the impact of environmental contaminants on TH signaling in the field and laboratory. As poikilotherms, frogs can experience considerable temperature fluctuations. Previous work demonstrated that low temperature prevents precocious TH-dependent induction of metamorphosis. However, a shift to a permissive higher temperature allows resumption of the induced metamorphic program regardless of whether or not TH remains. We investigated the impact of temperature on the TH-induced gene expression programs of premetamorphic Rana (Lithobates) catesbeiana tadpoles following a single injection of 10 pmoles/g body wet weight 3,3',5-triiodothyronine (T3). Abundance profiles of several T3-responsive mRNAs in liver, brain, lung, back skin, and tail fin were characterized under permissive (24°C), nonpermissive (5°C), or temperature shift (5 to 24°C) conditions. While responsiveness to T3 was retained to varying degrees at nonpermissive temperature, T3 modulation of thibz occurred in all tissues at 5°C suggesting an important role for this transcription factor in initiation of T3-dependent gene expression programs. Low temperature immersion of tadpoles in water containing 10 nM T3 and the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, ibuprofen, or the antimicrobial agent, triclosan, perturbed some aspects of the gene expression programs of tail fin and back skin that was only evident upon temperature shift. Such temporal uncoupling of chemical exposure and resultant biological effects in developing frogs necessitates a careful evaluation of environmental temperature influence in environmental monitoring programs. Copyright © 2015. Published by Elsevier Inc.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2015 · General and Comparative Endocrinology
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    ABSTRACT: Nanoparticles (NPs) are engineered in the nanoscale (<100nm) to have unique physico-chemical properties from their bulk counterparts. Nanosilver particles (AgNPs) are the most prevalent NPs in consumer products due to their strong antimicrobial action. While AgNP toxicity at high concentrations has been thoroughly investigated, the sublethal effects at or below regulatory guidelines are relatively unknown. Amphibian metamorphosis is mediated by thyroid hormone (TH), and initial studies with bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) indicate that low concentrations of AgNPs disrupt TH-dependent responses in premetamorphic tadpole tailfin tissue. The present study examined the effects of low, non-lethal, environmentally-relevant AgNP concentrations (0.018, 0.18 or 1.8μg/L Ag; ∼10nm particle size) on naturally metamorphosing Xenopus laevis tadpoles in two-28 day chronic exposures beginning with either pre- or prometamorphic developmental stages. Asymmetric flow field flow fractionation with online inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and nanoparticle tracking analysis indicated a mixture of single AgNPs with homo-agglomerates in the exposure water with a significant portion (∼30-40%) found as dissolved Ag. Tadpoles bioaccumulated AgNPs and displayed transient alterations in snout/vent and hindlimb length with AgNP exposure. Using MAGEX microarray and quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction transcript analyses, AgNP-induced disruption of five TH-responsive targets was observed. The increased mRNA abundance of two peroxidase genes by AgNP exposure suggests the presence of reactive oxygen species even at low, environmentally-relevant concentrations. Furthermore, differential responsiveness to AgNPs was observed at each developmental stage. Therefore, low concentrations of AgNPs had developmental stage-specific endocrine disrupting effects during TH-dependent metamorphosis. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
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    ABSTRACT: Marine mammals are typically poor indicators of point sources of environmental contaminants as a consequence of their often complex feeding ecologies and extensive movements, all of which mask the contributions of specific inputs. The release of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by a military radar station into Saglek Bay, Labrador (Canada) has contaminated marine sediments, bottom-feeding fish, seabirds, and some ringed seals, but attributing the PCBs in the latter highly mobile animals to this source is exceedingly difficult. In addition to the application of such tools as stable isotopes (δ15N and δ13C) and univariate and multivariate statistical exploration of contaminant patterns and ratios, we used satellite telemetry to track the movements of 13 seals in their transient use of different feeding areas. Reduced size of home range and core area (i.e. areas of concentrated use), as well as increased time in coastal inlets, were important determinants of increased PCB concentrations in seals reflecting the contribution of Saglek Bay. While the PCB source at Saglek provided a strong local signal in a remote environment, this first use of satellite telemetry demonstrates the utility of evaluating space-use strategies to better understand contaminant exposure, and more specifically the contribution of contaminant hotspots to mobile predators.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Environmental Science and Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Causal evidence linking toxic effects to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) exposure is typically confounded by the complexity of real-world contaminant mixtures to which aquatic wildlife are exposed. Although long-range transport through air and ocean currents delivers persistent organic pollutants to the eastern Canadian Arctic, PCBs from a spill at a local military facility on the Labrador coast has contaminated some marine biota, including the ringed seal (Pusa hispida). The abundance profiles of eight health-related gene transcripts were evaluated in liver samples collected from 43 ringed seals. mRNA transcript levels of five gene targets, including aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr; r2=0.70; p<0.001), interleukin-1 β (Il1b; r2=0.24; p=0.005), estrogen receptor α (Esr1; r2=0.42; p<0.001), insulin like growth factor receptor 1 (Igf1; r2=0.66; p<0.001), and glucocorticoid receptor α (Nr3c1; r2=0.23; p=0.007) correlated with increasing levels of PCBs in seals. PCB threshold values calculated for these five genes averaged 1,680 ± 206 ng/g lw, with the lowest, most conservative, being 1,380 ng/g lw. Approximately 14% of the seals sampled exceeded this threshold, suggesting a risk of adverse effects in a proportion of the local population. The dominance of PCBs in the seals studies enabled an assessment of the effects of this chemical on the health of a highly mobile predator, something that is rarely possible in the world of complex mixtures.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2014 · Environmental Science and Technology
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    ABSTRACT: The health of Skeena River Sockeye salmon (Onchorhychus nerka) has been of increasing concern due to declining stock returns over the last decade. In the present work, in-migrating Sockeye from the 2008 run were evaluated using a mass spectrometry-based, targeted metabolomics platform. Our objectives were to a) investigate natural changes in a subset of the hepatic metabolome arising from migration-associated changes in osmoregulation, locomotion, and gametogenesis, and b) compare the resultant profiles with animals displaying altered hepatic vitellogenin A (vtg) expression at the spawning grounds, which was previously hypothesized as a marker of xenobiotic exposure. Of 203 metabolites monitored, 95 were consistently observed in Sockeye salmon livers and over half of these changed significantly during in-migration. Among the most dramatic changes in both sexes were a decrease in concentrations of taurine (a major organic osmolite), carnitine (involved in fatty acid transport), and two major polyunsaturated fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid). In females, an increase in amino acids was attributed to protein catabolism associated with vitellogenesis. Animals with atypical vtg mRNA expression demonstrated unusual hepatic amino acid, fatty acid, taurine and carnitine profiles. The cause of these molecular perturbations remains unclear, but may include xenobiotic exposure, natural senescence, and/or inter-individual variability. These data provide a benchmark for further investigation into the long term health of migrating Skeena Sockeye.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Environmental Science and Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Conventional municipal wastewater treatment plants do not efficiently remove contaminants of emerging concern, and so are primary sources for contaminant release into the aquatic environment. Although these contaminants are present in effluents at ng-μg/L concentrations (i.e. microcontaminants), many compounds can act as endocrine disrupting compounds or stress-inducing agents at these levels. Chemical fate analyses indicate that additional levels of wastewater treatment reduce but do not always completely remove all microcontaminants. The removal of microcontaminants from wastewater does not necessarily correspond to a reduction in biological activity, as contaminant metabolites or byproducts may still be biologically active. To evaluate the efficacy of conventional municipal wastewater treatment plants to remove biological activity, we examined the performance of a full scale conventional activated sludge municipal wastewater treatment plant located in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. We assessed reductions in levels of conventional wastewater parameters and thyroid hormone disrupting and stress-inducing activities in wastewater at three phases along the treatment train using a C-fin assay. Wastewater treatment was effective at reducing total suspended solids, chemical and biochemical oxygen demand, and stress-inducing bioactivity. However, only minimal reduction was observed in thyroid hormone disrupting activities. The present study underscores the importance of examining multiple chemical and biological endpoints in evaluating and monitoring the effectiveness of wastewater treatment for removal of microcontaminants.
    No preview · Article · Sep 2014 · Water Research
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    ABSTRACT: A variety of pharmaceutical chemicals can represent constituents of municipal effluent outflows that are dispersed into aquatic receiving environments worldwide. Increasingly, there is concern as to the potential of such bioactive substances to interact with wildlife species at sensitive life stages and affect their biology. Using a combination of DNA microarray, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction, and qNPA™ arrayplate assays, we assessed the ability of sublethal and environmentally-relevant concentrations of ibuprofen (IBF), a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent and prevalent environmental contaminant, to function as a disruptor of endocrine-mediated postembryonic development of the frog. While the LC50 of IBF for premetamorphic Rana catesbeiana tadpoles is 41.5 mg/L (95% confidence interval: 32.3-53.5 mg/L), exposure to concentrations in the ppb range elicited molecular responses both in vivo and in organ culture. A nominal concentration of 15 µg/L IBF (actual = 13.7 µg/L) altered the abundance of 26 mRNA transcripts within the liver of exposed premetamorphic Rana catesbeiana tadpoles within 6 d. IBF-treated animals demonstrated subsequent disruption of thyroid hormone-mediated reprogramming in the liver transcriptome affecting constituents of several metabolic, developmental, and signaling pathways. Cultured tadpole tail fin treated with IBF for 48 h also demonstrated altered mRNA levels at drug concentrations as low as 1.5 µg/L. These observations raise the possibility that IBF may alter the postembryonic development of anuran species in freshwater environs, where IBF is a persistent or seasonal pollutant.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Environmental Science and Technology
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    ABSTRACT: Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) can evade degradation in sewage treatment plants (STPs) and can be chronically discharged into the environment, causing concern for aquatic organisms, wildlife, and humans that may be exposed to these bioactive chemicals. The ability of a common STP process, conventional activated sludge (CAS), to remove PPCPs (caffeine, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, estrone, 17α-ethinylestradiol, ibuprofen, naproxen, 4-nonylphenol, tonalide, triclocarban and triclosan) from a synthetic wastewater was evaluated in the present study. The removal of individual PPCPs by the laboratory-scale CAS treatment plant ranged from 40 to 99.6%. While the efficiency of removal for some compounds was high, remaining quantities have the potential to affect aquatic organisms even at low concentrations. Juvenile rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were exposed to influent recreated model wastewater with methanol (IM, solvent control) or with PPCP cocktail (IC), or CAS-treated effluent wastewater with methanol (EM, treated control) or with PPCP cocktail (EC). Alterations in hepatic gene expression (evaluated using a quantitative nuclease protection plex assay) and plasma vitellogenin (VTG) protein concentrations occurred in exposed fish. Although there was partial PPCP removal by CAS treatment, the 20% lower VTG transcript levels and 83% lower plasma VTG protein concentration found in EC-exposed fish compared to IC-exposed fish were not statistically significant. Thus, estrogenic activity found in the influent was retained in the effluent even though typical percent removal levels were achieved raising the issue that greater reduction in contaminant load is required to address hormone active agents.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2014 · Water Research
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    ABSTRACT: With increases in active mining and continued discharge associated with former mine operations, evaluating the health of watersheds in the Canadian Yukon Territory is warranted. Current environmental assessment approaches often employ guidelines established using sentinel species not relevant to Arctic monitoring programs. The present study focused on the successful development of a quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assay directed towards the indigenous Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus) and examines the feasibility of using non-lethal sampling from the caudal fin as a means for evaluation of mRNA abundance profiles reflective of environmental conditions. In a proof of concept study performed blind, qPCR results from animals in an area with elevated water concentrations of cadmium (Cd) and zinc (Zn) and higher body burdens of Cd, Zn, and lead (Pb) were compared to a reference location in the Yukon Territory. Lower condition factor and a higher abundance of hepatic and caudal fin gene transcripts encoding the metallothionein isoforms (mta/mtb), in addition to elevated heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) and catalase (cat) mRNAs in liver, were observed in fish from the test site. The strong positive correlation between metal body burden and caudal fin mta/mtb mRNA abundance demonstrates a high potential for use of the Arctic grayling assay in non-lethal environmental monitoring programs.
    No preview · Article · Apr 2014 · Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety
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    Tanya M Brown · Aaron T Fisk · Caren C Helbing · Ken J Reimer
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    ABSTRACT: Significant amounts of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were discovered at a military radar station in Saglek Bay, Labrador (Canada) in 1996, and subsequent work found elevated PCB concentrations in local marine sediments, the benthic-associated food web and in some ringed seals (Pusa hispida). The benthic-associated food web clearly reflected local PCB contamination, but the high PCB concentrations found in some ringed seals remained unexplained. In this study, we assess the extent to which this local PCB source at Saglek Bay is contributing to the contamination of ringed seals in northern Labrador. Of 63 ringed seals sampled along the northern Labrador coast, five (8%) had PCB levels that were higher than recorded anywhere else in the Canadian Arctic. In addition, compared to seals exhibiting a long-range signal, 45% and 60% of sub-adults and adult males, respectively exhibited heavier PCB congener profiles as characterized by Principal Components Analysis, >1.6-fold higher PCB/OCP ratios, and higher PCB concentration-weighted average log Kow values, consistent with a local source. Despite the spatially confined nature of contaminated sediments in Saglek Bay, the influence of this PCB source is not inconsequential; PCB concentrations in locally contaminated adult males are two-fold higher than those exposed only to long-range PCB sources, and exceed an established threshold of 1.3 mg/kg for adverse health effects in seals. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2013 SETAC.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
  • Nik Veldhoen · Catherine R. Propper · Caren C. Helbing
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    ABSTRACT: Studies performed across diverse frog species have made substantial contributions to our understanding of basic vertebrate development and the natural or anthropogenic environmental factors impacting sensitive life stages. Because, anurans are developmental models, provide ecosystems services, and act as sentinels for the identification of environmental chemical contaminants that interfere with thyroid hormone (TH) action during postembryonic development, there is demand for flexible assessment techniques that can be applied to multiple species. As part of the “thyroid assays across indicator and sentinel species” (TAXISS) initiative, we have designed and validated a series of cross-species real time quantitative PCR (qPCR) primer sets that provide information on transcriptome components in evolutionarily distant anurans. Validation for fifteen gene transcripts involved a rigorous three-tiered quality control within tissue/development-specific contexts. Assay performance was confirmed on multiple tissues (tail fin, liver, brain, and intestine) of Rana catesbeiana and Xenopus laevis tadpoles enabling comparisons between tissues and generation of response profiles to exogenous TH. This revealed notable differences in TH-responsive gene transcripts including thra, thrb, thibz, klf9, col1a2, fn1, plp1, mmp2, timm50, otc, and dio2, suggesting differential regulation and susceptibility to contaminant effects. Evidence for the applicability of the TAXISS anuran qPCR assay across seven other species is also provided with five frog families represented and its utility in defining genome structure was demonstrated. This novel validated approach will enable meaningful comparative studies between frog species and aid in extending knowledge of developmental regulatory pathways and the impact of environmental factors on TH signaling in frog species for which little or no genetic information is currently available.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2014 · Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
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    ABSTRACT: After completion of embryogenesis, many organisms experience an additional obligatory developmental transition to attain a substantially different juvenile or adult form. During anuran metamorphosis, the aquatic tadpole undergoes drastic morphological changes and remodelling of tissues and organs to become a froglet. Thyroid hormones are required to initiate the process, but the mechanism whereby the many requisite changes are coordinated between organs and tissues is poorly understood. Metabolites are often highly conserved biomolecules between species and are the closest reflection of phenotype. Due to the extensive distribution of blood throughout the organism, examination of the metabolites contained therein provides a system-wide overview of the coordinated changes experienced during metamorphosis. We performed an untargeted metabolomic analysis on serum samples from naturally-metamorphosing Rana catesbeiana from tadpoles to froglets using ultraperformance liquid chromatography coupled to a mass spectrometer. Total and aqueous metabolite extracts were obtained from each serum sample to select for nonpolar and polar metabolites, respectively, and selected metabolites were validated by running authentic compounds. The majority of the detected metabolites (74%) showed statistically significant abundance changes (padj < 0.001) between metamorphic stages. We observed extensive remodelling of five core metabolic pathways: arginine and purine/pyrimidine, cysteine/methionine, sphingolipid, and eicosanoid metabolism and the urea cycle, and found evidence for a major role for lipids during this postembryonic process. Metabolites traditionally linked to human disease states were found to have biological linkages to the system-wide changes occuring during the events leading up to overt morphological change. To our knowledge, this is the first wide-scale metabolomic study of vertebrate metamorphosis identifying fundamental pathways involved in the coordination of this important developmental process and paves the way for metabolomic studies on other metamorphic systems including fish and insects.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · BMC Developmental Biology

Publication Stats

2k Citations
333.55 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2002-2015
    • University of Victoria
      • Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology
      Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
  • 1997-1998
    • The University of Calgary
      • Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
      Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • 1992-1996
    • The University of Western Ontario
      London, Ontario, Canada