Exposure to Deepwater Horizon Oil and Corexit 9500 at Low Concentrations Induces Transcriptional Changes and Alters Immune Transcriptional Pathways In Sheepshead Minnows

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill caused the release of 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, followed by the application of 2.9 million L of the dispersant, Corexit™ to mitigate the spread of oil. The spill resulted in substantial shoreline oiling, potentially exposing coastal organisms to polyaromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) and dispersant contaminants. To investigate molecular effects in fish following exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of DWH oil and dispersants, we exposed adult sheepshead minnows (Cyprinodon variegatus) to two concentrations of high-energy water-accommodated fraction (HEWAF), chemically enhanced water-accommodated fraction (CEWAF) or Corexit 9500™ for 7 and 14 days. Resulting changes in hepatic gene expression were measured using 8 × 15 K microarrays. Analytical chemistry confirmed PAH concentrations in HEWAF and CEWAF treatments were low (ranging from 0.26 to 5.98 μg/L), and likely representative of post-spill environmental concentrations. We observed significant changes to gene expression in all treatments (relative to controls), with Corexit and CEWAF having a greater effect on expression patterns in the liver than HEWAF treatments. Sub-network enrichment analysis of biological pathways revealed that the greatest number of altered pathways in high dose HEWAF and CEWAF treatments occurred following a 7-day exposure. Pathways related to immunity comprised the majority of pathways affected in each treatment, followed by pathways related to blood and circulation processes. Our results indicate that oil composition, concentration, and exposure duration all affect molecular responses in exposed fish, and suggest that low-concentration exposures may result in sub-lethal adverse effects.

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part D: Genomics and Proteomics



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