Tissue Phthalate Levels Correlate With Changes in Immune Gene Expression in a Population of Juvenile Wild Salmon

Phthalates have detrimental effects on health and have been shown to dysregulate the immune system of mammals, birds, and fish. We recently reported that di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate exposure reduces the abundance and inhibits the proliferation of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) IgM+ B lymphocytes and expression of secreted immunoglobulin heavy-chain mu transcripts in an in vitro culture system. We proposed that phthalates act as immunomodulators by modifying the normal B cell-activation pathways by accelerating B cell differentiation while suppressing plasmablast expansion, thus resulting in fewer IgM-secreting plasma cells. This hypothesis was tested here in an in vivo field study of juvenile Dolly Varden (Salvelinus malma) from a plastic-polluted lake in the Gulf of Alaska. Fish tissues were analyzed for both phthalate levels using liquid chromatography-coupled tandem mass spectrometry and for changes in immune gene expression using reverse transcriptase-real time polymerase chain reaction. Results showed that fish with higher tissue levels of di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, di(n-butyl) phthalate, and/or dimethyl phthalate expressed significantly fewer secreted and membrane-bound immunoglobulin heavy-chain mu and Blimp1 transcripts in their hematopoietic tissue. This suggests that in vivo uptake of phthalates in fish changes the expression of B cell-specific genes. Chronic exposure to phthalates likely dysregulates normal B-lymphoid development and antibody responses in salmonids and may increase susceptibility to infection. Given the conserved nature of B-lineage cells in vertebrate animals, other marine species may be similarly affected by chronic phthalate exposure.

Kelly Martins, Birgit Hagedorn, Shareen Ali, John Kennish, Ben Applegate, Matthias Leu, Lidia Epp, Chris Pallister, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, July 2016, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 35–47

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