Copper homeostasis and toxicity in the elasmobranch Raja erinacea and the teleost Myoxocephalus octodecemspinosus during exposure to elevated water-borne copper

Martin Grosell, Chris M. Wood, Patrick J. Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Clear nosed skate, Raja erinacea were exposed to 0.10 (control), 0.52 or 1.73 μM copper and sculpin, Myoxocephalus octodecemspinosus were exposed to 0.10 or 1.73 μM copper (as CuSO4) in Salisbury Cove seawater for up to seven days. Skate gill copper concentrations increased 40-50 fold over background in response to copper exposure at both concentrations. In comparison, sculpin gill levels only increased 3-fold. While there was no evidence for internalized copper in the skate arising from the water-borne exposure, sculpin kidneys, but not livers, exhibited elevated copper concentrations after the seven days of exposure. The marked difference in branchial copper accumulation between the skate and the sculpin likely explains why elasmobranchs appear to be more sensitive to metal exposure than most marine teleost fish. Brain tissue from both species and the skate rectal gland contained relatively high background copper concentrations. Copper exposure caused an initial transient reduction in skate plasma total ammonia (Tamm), but eventually led to elevated plasma Tamm. Despite the marked branchial copper accumulation in the skate, there was no reduction in gill Na/K-ATPase activity. Similarly, Na/K-ATPase activity in skate rectal gland and intestine, as well as in sculpin gill and intestine were not affected by copper exposure. Plasma sodium, magnesium and chloride were not affected by copper exposure in either the skate or the sculpin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-190
Number of pages12
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - C Toxicology and Pharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003



  • Copper
  • Elasmobranch
  • Na/K-ATPase
  • Plasma ammonia
  • Teleost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Pharmacology

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