The project integrates in the study of transport pathway and impact of pollutants in the marine ecosystem and aims to understand the effects of trace metals (Hg, Cd, Zn, Cu, Ni, Cr, Pb, Fe) and organochlorines (PCBs, DDT I and dioxin like compounds) on some endocrine and immune functions of one highly treated marine mammal species of the North Sea : the harbour porpoise, Phocoenaphocoena. Immunohistological investigations on thyroid glands will provide information on the potential lesions, as thyroid is one of the major target organs for endocrine disruptors. Detection of cytokines in the blood will be realised using reverse transcription polymerase-chain reaction (RT-PCR). Cytokines are glycoproteinssecreted by immune cells and their gene expression can be strongly modulated by pollutants. Immune and endocrine data will be compared with previously acquired data about heavy metal and organochlorine burden in order to get a better understanding of the mechanism of these pollutant impact.
The multidisciplinary dimension of the project requires the contribution of scientific leaderships in various disciplines(pathology, ecology, immunology, endocrinology and ecotoxicology).specialised in feeding ecology through stable isotope analysis and ecotoxicology and therefore, the realisation of this project needs absolutely the permanent participation of specialists in pathology, endocrinology and immunology of marine mammals. This specialisation can not be found in the Liege University and, thus a long stay of the applicant in the FTZ group will be of the most importance to improve her knowledge in marine mammals immune and endocrine impairments and to help her to get a better understanding on the potential effects of pollutants on marine mammals health status.