Deepwater Horizon crude oil exposure alters cholesterol biosynthesis with implications for developmental cardiotoxicity in larval mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Victoria McGruer, Christina Pasparakis, Martin Grosell, John D. Stieglitz, Daniel D. Benetti, Justin B. Greer, Daniel Schlenk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


During the spring and summer of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil well released over three million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. As the oil dispersed it contaminated ecosystems that support numerous Gulf species including mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). The timing of the spill, and location of the surface slick, coincided with the spawning of many species in the region, raising concerns over embryonic and larval exposure. Numerous abnormalities due to crude oil exposure have been documented in fish early life stages, including cardiotoxicity; however, knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that cause these phenotypes is still limited. Several transcriptomic studies have presented cholesterol biosynthesis as one of the top enriched pathways following PAH exposure. In this study we exposed mahi-mahi embryos to DWH oil collected from the surface slick. At exposures ranging from ∑PAH 1.69 μg/L to ∑PAH 5.99 μg/L, the resulting larvae demonstrated significant increases in farnesyl-diphosphate farnesyltransferase 1 (fdft1) and an upward trend in 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl-CoA Reductase (hmgcr) expression, genes that encode key enzymes in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway. In addition to the increased expression of genes in cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, a significant decrease in total cholesterol was observed in larval homogenates, at ∑PAH 8.3 μg/L. These data confirm earlier transcriptomic studies and show that oil may diminish cholesterol and adversely impact numerous cellular functions due to altered membrane stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-35
Number of pages5
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • 3-Hydroxy-3-Methylglutaryl-CoA Reductase
  • Cardiotoxicity
  • Cholesterol
  • Farnesyl-diphosphate farnesyltransferase 1
  • Fish development
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Oil spill
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  • SREBP cleavage-activating protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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