Monitoring contaminants and biomarker responses in biopsy samples of blue whales


Biopsy samples of skin and blubber were collected from live blue whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1996 and 1997. Expression of cytochrome P4501A m-RNA in dermal endothelia was detected immunohistochemically using MAb 1-12-3. Results were scored on a scale of 0- 15, and showed elevated expression in biopsy samples from blue whales off Sept Isle (7.2 Å 1.0, n=8) as compared to blue whales from other regions of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (3.7 A 3.0, n=6, p<0.005) and from Iceland (1.8 Å 2.0, n=9, p<0.001). These data indicate that there are differences in levels of Ah receptor agonists in blue whales sampled from these locations. Organochlorine contaminants (PCBs and OC pesticides) were elevated in the blubber of blue whales from the Sept Isle region sampled in 1997 (e.g total PCBs; 1,746 Å 620 ng/g lipid, n=7), as compared to blue whales from other areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence (355 Å 182 ng/g lipid, n=20). Elevated estrogenic activity was detected in an extract prepared from blubber biopsies of Sept Isle whales analyzed using the yeast estrogenicity screening (YES) assay for endocrine disrupting substances. These studies illustrate the utility of using biopsy samples for biomonitoring studies of both contaminant residues and biomarkers of contaminant exposure in cetaceans.

Koenig, B., T. Metcalfe, C. Metcalfe, J. Stegeman, M. Moore, C. Miller, and R. Sears. 1999. Monitoring Contaminants And Biomarker Responses In Biopsy Samples Of Blue Whales. Presentation to the 13th biennial conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals, Maui , Hawaii , November 28 – December 3, 1999