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How Cadmium Could Compromise the Completion of the European Eel’s Reproductive Migration

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journal contribution
posted on 15.06.2008, 00:00 by Fabien Pierron, Magalie Baudrimont, Sylvie Dufour, Pierre Elie, Angélique Bossy, Sylvie Baloche, Nathalie Mesmer-Dudons, Patrice Gonzalez, Jean-Paul Bourdineaud, Jean-Charles Massabuau
The European eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) is severely threatened with extinction. Surprisingly, even though their unusual life cycle makes them particularly vulnerable to pollution, the possible contribution of contamination remains especially poorly known. Here we have investigated the possible effect of cadmium (Cd), a widespread nonessential metal, on eel reproductive capacities. Both control and Cd precontaminated female silver eels were experimentally matured and forced to swim in metal-free conditions to mimic their reproductive migration. Cd pre-exposure was found to strongly stimulate the pituitary−gonad−liver axis of maturing female silver eels leading to early and enhanced vitellogenesis. This was followed by a strong phenomenon of oocyte atresia and eel mortality. These phenomena occurred before oocytes could reach full maturation and were associated with a large entry of both vitellogenin and Cd into the ovaries. Indeed, a redistribution of previously stored cadmium, even from the low Cd levels of control eels, was observed during sexual maturation. Atresia and mortality phenomena were also associated with an overexpression of the pituitary gene encoding the growth hormone, a marker of physiological stress and energy reserves exhaustion. Significantly, these devastating effects of Cd were observed in organisms that presented liver and kidney Cd concentrations still below those observed in eels from Cd contaminated hydrosystems. Our research shows how common levels of cadmium contamination could disrupt endocrine pathways implicated in gonad maturation and subsequently impair reproductive capacity of eel future genitors.

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