The fish or the egg : maternal transfer and subcellular partitioning of mercury and selenium in Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofScience of the total environment ; vol. 675, pp. 604-614.
Mercury (Hg) is a trace element of particular concern since it is ubiquitous in the environment and because its methylated form (MeHg) readily bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in food webs. This latter process leads to elevated Hg concentrations in fish and may thus induce toxicity. Maternal transfer of bioaccumulated contaminants to offspring is a suggested mechanism of impaired reproductive success in fish. The purpose of this study was to assess the toxicity potential of Hg during maternal transfer in Yellow Perch from Lake Saint-Pierre (Quebec, Canada) using a subcellular partitioning approach. We also evaluated potential protective effects of selenium, as this element has been shown to alleviate Hg toxicity through sequestration. A customized subcellular partitioning protocol was used to separate liver and gonad of Yellow Perch into various subcellular fractions. Results show that, in the liver, MeHg was primarily (51%) associated to the subcellular fraction containing cytosolic enzymes. Furthermore, 23% and 15% of MeHg was found in hepatic and gonadal mitochondria, respectively, suggesting that Yellow Perch is not effectively detoxifying this metal. There was also a strong relationship (R2 = 0.73) between MeHg bioaccumulation in the liver and MeHg concentrations in gonadal mitochondria, which corroborates the potential risk linked to MeHg maternal transfer. On the other hand, we also found that selenium might have a protective effect on Hg toxicity at a subcellular level. In fact, Se:Hg molar ratios in subcellular fractions were systematically above 1 in all tissues and fractions examined, which corresponds to the suggested protective threshold. This study provides the first assessment of subcellular Se:Hg molar ratios in fish. Since early developmental stages in aquatic biota are particularly sensitive to Hg, this study represents a step forward in understanding the likelihood for toxic effects in wild fish through maternal transfer.