Copper binding dynamics and olfactory impairment in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas)

Warren W. Green, Reehan S. Mirza, Chrism Wood, Greg G. Pyle

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45 Scopus citations


When fish are exposed to sublethal, environmentally relevant Cu concentrations, olfactory acuity is impaired. The goals of the present study were to investigate the binding dynamics of waterborne Cu in the olfactory epithelium (OE), to examine the influence of calcium (Ca2+) on Cu binding, and to link Cu-OE binding to changes in olfactory acuity. Using short-term in vivo waterborne exposures to 64Cu, we found that Cu accumulates rapidly in the OE, reaching a plateau by 3 h. The binding affinity (log KCu-OE) and binding capacity (Bmax) of 64Cu in the OE were 6.7 and 10.0 nmol Cu g-1, respectively. As waterborne Ca2+ was increased from 50 to 1000 μM L-1, the Bmax of Cu decreased by ~50% while the log K Cu-OE remained constant, indicative of noncompetitive inhibition. Using electro-olfactograms (EOG), short-term exposures to 160 and 240 nmol Cu L-1 were found to reduce olfactory responses to 10-5 M L-arginine by 72 and 79%, respectively. Short-term exposure to 160 nmol Cu L-1 also caused a 15-fold reduction in behavioral responses toafood stimulus. Interestingly, increasing waterborne Ca2+ did not reduce the effects of Cu on EOG or behavioral responses. These results demonstrate that short-term, environmentally realistic concentrations of Cu not only bind to the OE of fathead minnows but also impair their olfactory sensitivity and behavioral responses to olfactory stimuli. Waterborne Ca2+ reduces Cu-OE binding but does not protect against olfactory impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1431-1437
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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