Research on the toxicological mechanisms of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) deemed carcinogenic and noncarcinogenic has mostly been developed for individual compounds even though, in the environment, PAHs invariably occur in mixtures. The present work aimed at understanding the interaction effects of two model PAHs, the potentially carcinogenic benzo[b]fluoranthene (B[b]F) and the noncarcinogenic phenanthrene (Phe) to a marine fish (the sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax). The study endeavoured an ecologically-relevant scenario with respect to concentrations and contaminant matrix, sediments, which are the main reservoirs of these substances in the environment, due to their hydrophobic nature. For the purpose, 28-day laboratorial bioassays with spiked sediments (with individual and combined PAHs at equitoxic concentrations) were conducted. Genotoxicity was determined in peripheral blood through the "Comet" assay and by scoring erythrocytic nuclear abnormalities (ENA). The results showed that exposure to either PAHs induced similar levels of DNA strand breaks, although without a clear dose- or time-response, likely due to the low concentrations of exposure and potential shits in PAH bioavailability during the assays. However, clastogenic/aneugenic lesions were only observed in fish exposed to B[b]F-spiked sediments. Conversely, the combination assays revealed a supra-additive effect especially at chromosome level, linked to concentrations of PAHs in water. A decrease in DNA-strand breakage was observed over time during all assays, revealing some ability of fish to cope with this DNA lesion. Overall, the findings show that low-moderate concentrations of sediment-bound mixed PAHs may significantly increase the hazard of mutagenesis even when the individual concentrations indicate low risk, especially considering that chromosome-level damage is unlikely to be repaired, leading to the fixation of DNA lesions upon prolonged exposures.
- POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC-HYDROCARBONS
- MICRONUCLEUS ASSAY
- OXIDATIVE STRESS
- SADO ESTUARY
- COMET ASSAY