Impact of low doses of tritium on the marine mussel, Mytilus edulis: genotoxic effects and tissue-specific bioconcentration.Mutat Res. 2005 Sep 05; 586(1):47-57.MR
Despite growing scientific, public and regulatory concern over the discharge of radioactive substances, no serious attempts have been made to develop a rationale to evaluate the impact of environmentally relevant radionuclides in the aquatic environment. In this study, we have evaluated the genotoxic effects and tissue-specific concentration of tritium (added as tritiated water, HTO) in the adult life stage of the edible mussel, Mytilus edulis. The genotoxic effects were quantified in terms of the induction of: (a) micronuclei (MN), and (b) DNA single-strand breaks/alkali-labile sites using alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (Comet assay) in the haemocytes of exposed animals. The assays were optimised and validated using a range of concentrations (18-56 mgl(-1)) of ethylmethane sulfonate (EMS), a direct-acting reference genotoxic agent, over different exposure periods. Mussels were exposed to a series of concentrations of HTO equivalent to a dose range from 12 to 485 muGyh(-1) for 96 h, and different tissues and organs were then extracted and analysed. The study revealed a dose-dependent increase in the response for both the MN test and the Comet assay and for both EMS and HTO. In addition, HTO delivering dose rates below 500 muGyh(-1) was shown to be capable of inducing genetic damage in the haemocytes of these bivalves. The study also showed that inorganic tritium accumulated differentially in mussel tissues in a dose-dependent manner, with the gut accumulating the highest amount of radioactivity, followed by the gill, mantle, muscle, foot and byssus thread. The faeces and pseudo-faeces accumulated least radioactivity over the exposure period. Differential accumulation of radionuclides has significant implications for biomonitoring programmes, for this and other aquatic organisms. The study also suggests that the generic dose limits recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the protection of aquatic biota might not be applicable to all aquatic organisms.