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Superfund Research Program

Biotransformation Gene-Environment Interactions in Coho Salmon Neurotoxicity

Project Leader: Evan P. Gallagher
Grant Number: P42ES004696
Funding Period: 2009-2023
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2009-2015)

Pacific salmon populations have declined markedly in the Western United States. Of particular concern has been sublethal neurological injury occurring in salmon exposed to certain pesticides and trace metals. These behavioral impacts include loss of predator detection and prey selection, altered reproductive timing and loss of homing. These aforementioned neurobehavioral effects observed in individuals are now linked to population impacts. The salmon olfactory system is a sensitive target for the neurotoxicity of environmental chemicals, including metals and pesticides commonly found in Superfund sites. However, little is known about the mechanisms of chemical olfactory neurotoxicity in fish. Studies from the project’s first funding cycle have produced important findings that are being explored in detail in this cycle. Specifically, project researchers know that:

  1. the olfactory tissues of salmon are important site of chemical biotransformation, and in particular, cytochrome P4503A and flavin monooxygenases (FMO) appear to mediate tissue- and compound-specific differences in organophosphate biotransformation with potential impacts on neurotoxicity,
  2. the olfactory injury by a model superfund organophosphate chemical (chlorpyrifos) and metal (copper) involves disruption of olfactory signal transduction pathways. However, copper primarily impacts G-protein coupled olfactory receptor signaling, likely through oxidative stress, whereas chlorpyrifos activates genes involved in the inhibition of olfactory signal transduction, and
  3. transcriptional signatures can help project researchers identify unique gene targets relevant to mixtures, as well differentiating metal- and organophosphate-driven effects.

Based upon the researchers’ findings, the objectives of the research are to:

  1. use cDNA cloning, recombinant protein expression, microarray analysis and enzymatic approaches to determine the role of olfactory CYP3A and flavin monooxygenases in organophosphate neurotoxicity in salmon during movement from freshwater to saltwater,
  2. use in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry analyses coupled with behavioral studies to understand the role of oxidative stress in copper and cadmium-mediated olfactory injury,
  3. use proteomics approaches to identify and discriminate important olfactory protein targets of copper and chlorpyrifos,
  4. use a suite of olfactory biomarkers generated from the aforementioned studies to assess sublethal olfactory neurotoxicity in salmon migrating through Superfund sites.
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