Hepatic metabolite profiling of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-resistant and sensitive populations of Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). Academic Article uri icon


  • Atlantic killifish inhabiting polluted sites along the east coast of the U.S. have evolved resistance to toxic effects of contaminants. One such contaminated site is the Acushnet River estuary, near New Bedford Harbor (NBH), Massachusetts, which is characterized by very high PCB concentrations in the sediments and in the tissues of resident killifish. Though killifish at this site appear to be thriving, the metabolic costs of survival in a highly contaminated environment are not well understood. In this study we compared the hepatic metabolite profiles of resistant (NBH) and sensitive populations (Scorton Creek (SC), Sandwich, MA) using a targeted metabolomics approach in which polar metabolites were extracted from adult fish livers and quantified. Our results revealed differences in the levels of several metabolites between fish from the two sites. The majority of these metabolites are associated with one-carbon metabolism, an important pathway that supports multiple physiological processes including DNA and protein methylation, nucleic acid biosynthesis and amino acid metabolism. We measured the gene expression of DNA methylation (DNA methyltransferase 1, dnmt1) and demethylation genes (Ten-Eleven Translocation (TET) genes) in the two populations, and observed lower levels of dnmt1 and higher levels of TET gene expression in the NBH livers, suggesting possible differences in DNA methylation profiles. Consistent with this, the two populations differed significantly in the levels of 5-methylcytosine and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine nucleotides. Overall, our results suggest that the unique hepatic metabolite signatures observed in NBH and SC reflect the adaptive mechanisms for survival in their respective habitats.

publication date

  • December 2018