Ecological Risk Assessment Paradigm for Salmon: Analyzing Immune Function to Evaluate Risk
Wild Pacific salmon populations are in serious decline, and as a result, a number of salmon stocks are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Our research identifies and supports the possibility that certain environmental contaminants can alter salmon survival, and as a result may contribute to these species being at risk. We have shown that juvenile chinook salmon ( Oncorhynchus tshawytscha ) are exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as they migrate through a contaminated urban estuary in Puget Sound WA (the Duwamish Waterway estuary). Immune function was analyzed in these fish by examining the ability of their anterior kidney and splenic leukocytes to produce a primary and secondary in vitro plaque-forming cell (PFC) response to the hapten, trinitrophenyl (TNP), and by determining their susceptibility to a marine pathogen, Vibrio anguillarum . We found that fish outmigrating from the urban estuary produced a significantly lower PFC response to TNP and were more susceptible to the pathogen, compared to juvenile salmon collected from a rural estuary during their outmigration. In the laboratory, we exposed juvenile chinook salmon collected from a hatchery to either a PCB technical mixture or a PAH compound to determine if these contaminants have the potential to alter immune function in salmon. Indeed, we found that salmon exposed in the laboratory to either the PCB mixture or the PAH also produced lower PFC responses and were more susceptible to disease compared to animals treated with the solvent vehicle. In summary, contaminants such as PAHs and PCBs are demonstrated to influence salmon health, and thus have the potential to adversely impact salmon populations.
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