Changes in gene expression due to chronic exposure to environmental pollutants

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51 Scopus citations


Populations of the teleost fish Fundulus heteroclitus inhabit and have adapted to highly polluted Superfund sites that are contaminated with persistent toxic chemicals. Populations inhabiting different Superfund sites provide independent contrasts for studying mechanisms of toxicity and resistance due to exposure to environmental pollutants. To identify both shared and unique responses to chronic pollutant exposure, liver, metabolic gene expression in F. heteroclitus populations from each of three Superfund sites (New Bedford Harbor, MA; Newark Bay, NJ; and Elizabeth River, VA) were compared to two flanking reference site populations (nine populations in total). In comparisons to their two clean reference sites, the three Superfund sites had 8-32% of genes with altered expression patterns. Between any two Superfund populations, up to nine genes (4%) show a conserved response, yet among all three populations, there was no gene which had a conserved, altered pattern of expression. Across all three Superfund sites in comparison to all six-reference populations, the most significant gene was fatty acid synthase. Fatty acid synthase is involved in the storage of excess energy as fat, and its lesser expression in the polluted populations suggests that the polluted populations may have limited energy stores. In contrast to previous studies of metabolic gene expression in F. heteroclitus, body weight was a significant covariate for many of the genes which could reflect accumulation and different body burdens of pollutants. Overall, the altered gene expression in these populations likely represents both induced and adaptive changes in gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-171
Number of pages11
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 21 2008


  • Fundulus heteroclitus
  • Gene expression
  • Microarray
  • Natural populations
  • Pollution
  • Superfund site

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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