Altered lipid homeostasis in a PCB-resistant Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) population from New Bedford Harbor, MA, U.S.A. Academic Article uri icon


  • Sentinel species such as the Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus) living in urban waterways can be used as toxicological models to understand impacts of environmental metabolism disrupting compound (MDC) exposure on both wildlife and humans. Exposure to MDCs is associated with increased risk of metabolic syndrome, including impaired lipid and glucose homeostasis, adipogenesis, appetite control, and basal metabolism. MDCs are ubiquitous in the environment, including in aquatic environments. New Bedford Harbor (NBH), Massachusetts is polluted with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and, as we show for the first time, tin (Sn). PCBs and organotins are ligands for two receptor systems known to regulate lipid homeostasis, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) and the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), respectively. In the current study, we compared lipid homeostasis in laboratory-reared killifish from NBH (F2) and a reference location (Scorton Creek, Massachusetts; F1 and F2) to evaluate how adaptation to local conditions may influence responses to MDCs. Adult killifish from each population were exposed to 3,3',4,4',5-pentachlorobiphenyl (PCB126, dioxin-like), 2,2',4,4',5,5'-hexachlorobiphenyl (PCB153, non-dioxin-like), or tributyltin (TBT, a PPAR? ligand) by a single intraperitoneal injection and analyzed after 3 days. AHR activation was assessed by measuring cyp1a mRNA expression. Lipid homeostasis was evaluated phenotypically by measuring liver triglycerides and organosomatic indices, and at the molecular level by measuring the mRNA expression of pparg and ppara and a target gene for each receptor. Acute MDC exposure did not affect phenotypic outcomes. However, overall NBH killifish had higher liver triglycerides and adiposomatic indices than SC killifish. Both season and population were significant predictors of the lipid phenotype. Acute MDC exposure altered hepatic gene expression only in male killifish from SC. PCB126 exposure induced cyp1a and pparg, whereas PCB153 exposure induced ppara. TBT exposure did not induce ppar-dependent pathways. Comparison of lipid homeostasis in two killifish populations extends our understanding of how MDCs act on fish and provides a basis to infer adaptive benefits of these differences in the wild.

publication date

  • May 1, 2019