The Role of the Cephalopod Digestive Gland in the Storage and Detoxification of Marine Pollutants

Ana P. Rodrigo, Pedro M Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


The relevance of cephalopods for fisheries and even aquaculture, is raising concerns on the relationship between these molluscs and environmental stressors, from climate change to pollution. However, how these organisms cope with environmental toxicants is far less understood than for other molluscs, especially bivalves, which are frontline models in aquatic toxicology. Although, sharing the same basic body plan, cephalopods hold distinct adaptations, often unique, as they are active predators with high growth and metabolic rates. Most studies on the digestive gland, the analog to the vertebrate liver, focused on metal bioaccumulation and its relation to environmental concentrations, with indication for the involvement of special cellular structures (like spherulae) and proteins. Although the functioning of phase I and II enzymes of detoxification in molluscs is controversial, there is evidence for CYP-mediated bioactivation, albeit with lower activity than vertebrates, but this issue needs yet much research. Through novel molecular tools, toxicology-relevant genes and proteins are being unraveled, from metallothioneins to heat-shock proteins and phase II conjugation enzymes, which highlights the importance of increasing genomic annotation as paramount to understand toxicant-specific pathways. However, little is known on how organic toxicants are stored, metabolized and eliminated, albeit some evidence from biomarker approaches, particularly those related to oxidative stress, suggesting that these molluscs' digestive gland is indeed responsive to chemical aggression. Additionally, cause-effect relationships between pollutants and toxicopathic effects are little understood, thus compromising, if not the deployment of these organisms for biomonitoring, at least understanding how they are affected by anthropogenically-induced global change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number232
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2017


  • quatic toxicology
  • mollusca
  • Cephalopoda
  • biomarkers
  • toxicological pathways
  • bioaccumulation


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