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Fish & Shellfish Immunology
Vol. 45 (1), 2015, Pages: 112–123

Evaluation of waterborne exposure to heavy metals in innate immune defences present on skin mucus of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata)

Francisco A. Guardiola, Maria Dioguardi, Maria Giovanna Parisi, Maria Rosa Trapani, José Meseguer, Alberto Cuesta, Matteo Cammarata, María A. Esteban

Department of Cell Biology and Histology, Faculty of Biology, Campus Regional de Excelencia Internacional “Campus Mare Nostrum”, University of Murcia, 30100, Murcia, Spain.


Aquatic animals are continuously exposed to chemical pollutants but the effects evoked in skin surfaces, which receive the most direct contact with them, are poorly investigated. Terminal carbohydrate composition and immunological components present in skin mucus of gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata L.) specimens exposed to waterborne sublethal dosages of heavy metals [arsenic (As2O3), cadmium (CdCl2) and mercury (CH3HgCl) at 5, 5 and 0.04 μM, respectively for 2, 10 and 30 days were analysed. Moreover, the presence of a fucose binding lectin (FBL) was evaluated by western blot and the protein profiles were by SDS-PAGE and HPLC. Results showed little effects of heavy metals in the presence of several terminal carbohydrates with few increments or decrements. Most of the enzyme activities related to immune responses were increased upon heavy metal exposure in the skin mucus including bactericidal activity. Methylmercury produced the most dramatic changes increasing all the activities. Moreover, the FBL was undetected in any of the control fish skin mucus but was evident in all the heavy metal exposed fish. In addition, As and Cd produced a clear change in the protein profile as evidenced by the lack of a protein band of around 12 kDa which is absent. These protein changes were more evident with the HPLC study showing the presence of different peaks and differences in intensity. The present results could be useful for better understanding the role and their behaviour of the mucosal immunity in skin as a key component of the innate immune system against pollutants.

Keywords: Skin mucus; Mucosal immunity; Heavy metals; Lectins; Gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata).

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