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Title: Cardiac physiology and metabolic gene expression during late organogenesis among F. heteroclitus embryo families from crosses between pollution-sensitive and -resistant parents
Abstract Background The teleost fish Fundulus heteroclitus inhabit estuaries heavily polluted with persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals. While embryos of parents from polluted sites are remarkably resistant to toxic sediment and develop normally, embryos of parents from relatively clean estuaries, when treated with polluted sediment extracts, are developmentally delayed, displaying deformities characteristic of pollution-induced embryotoxicity. To gain insight into parental effects on sensitive and resistant phenotypes during late organogenesis, we established sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families using five female and five male parents from relatively clean and predominantly PAH-polluted estuaries each, measured heart rates, and quantified individual embryo expression of 179 metabolic genes. Results Pollution-induced embryotoxicity manifested as morphological deformities, significant developmental delays, and altered cardiac physiology was evident among sensitive embryos resulting from crosses between females and males from relatively clean estuaries. Significantly different heart rates among several geographically unrelated populations of sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families during late organogenesis and pre-hatching suggest site-specific adaptive cardiac physiology phenotypes relative to pollution exposure. Metabolic gene expression patterns (32 genes, 17.9%, at p < 0.05; 11 genes, 6.1%, at p < 0.01) among the embryo families indicate maternal pollutant deposition in the eggs and parental effects on gene expression and metabolic alterations. Conclusion Heart rate differences among sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryos is a reliable phenotype for further explorations of adaptive mechanisms. While metabolic gene expression patterns among embryo families are suggestive of parental effects on several differentially expressed genes, a definitive adaptive signature and metabolic cost of resistant phenotypes is unclear and shows unexpected sensitive-resistant crossed embryo expression profiles. Our study highlights physiological and metabolic gene expression differences during a critical embryonic stage among pollution sensitive, resistant, and crossed embryo families, which may contribute to underlying resistance mechanisms observed in natural F. heteroclitus populations living in heavily contaminated estuaries.  more » « less
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BMC Ecology and Evolution
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National Science Foundation
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