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Evaluation of the genomic effects of four environmentally suspect pharmaceutical compounds on Atlantic salmon


Pharmaceutical compounds are considered emerging contaminants and possible candidates for the introduction into the Water Framework Directive list of priority substances (2000/60/EC). They are continuously introduced into sewage waters, and as a result, found in surface, ground and drinking waters.

Even though they have high transformation and removal rates, they may display chronic exposure characteristics due to their continuous input, as their elimination during wastewater treatment is rather low. However, there is a lack of knowledge about long-term effects in non-target organisms as well as for human health.

Four of the most important groups of pharmaceuticals found in aquatic environments are antibiotics, analgesics, anti-epileptics and beta-blockers. Toxicity testing has indicated a relatively low acute toxicity to fish species, but no information is available on possible sublethal effects, which may reduce fitness or reproductive potential and thence have knock-on ecological effects.

The objective of this study is to determine the sublethal effects of four relevant model pharmaceutical compounds on the transcriptome and proteome of Atlantic salmon. Individuals will be exposed to environmental concentrations of the selected compounds.

Changes in gene or protein expression will be analysed using an Atlantic salmon cDNA microarray and 2-dimensional-difference gel electrophoresis respectively, and compared with classical toxicity endpoints such as histopathology.

The integration of functional genomics technologies with classical methods in toxicology enables comparison of mechanisms, and early detection and prediction of toxicity and may provide early, rapid, sensitive and specific biomarkers of effects.

This project addresses directly EU policies related to the risk of chemicals to the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and to human health such as the 6th Environmental Action Plan, the Water Framework Directive, and the Directive 91/271/EEC among others.

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Airthrey Road
United Kingdom

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