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Larval Red Drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) Sublethal Exposure to Weathered Deepwater Horizon Crude Oil: Developmental and Transcriptomic Consequences

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posted on 02.08.2017, 00:00 by Elvis Genbo Xu, Alex J. Khursigara, Jason Magnuson, E. Starr Hazard, Gary Hardiman, Andrew J. Esbaugh, Aaron P. Roberts, Daniel Schlenk
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) incident resulted in extensive oiling of the pelagic zone and shoreline habitats of many commercially important fish species. Exposure to the water-accommodated fraction (WAF) of oil from the spill causes developmental toxicity through cardiac defects in pelagic fish species. However, few studies have evaluated the effects of the oil on near-shore estuarine fish species such as red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus). Following exposure to a certified weathered slick oil (4.74 μg/L ∑PAH50) from the DWH event, significant sublethal impacts were observed ranging from impaired nervous system development [average 17 and 22% reductions in brain and eye area at 48 h postfertilization (hpf), respectively] to abnormal cardiac morphology (100% incidence at 24, 48, and 72 hpf) in red drum larvae. Consistent with the phenotypic responses, significantly differentially expressed transcripts, enriched gene ontology, and altered functions and canonical pathways predicted adverse outcomes in nervous and cardiovascular systems, with more pronounced changes at later larval stages. Our study demonstrated that the WAF of weathered slick oil of DWH caused morphological abnormalities predicted by a suite of advanced bioinformatic tools in early developing red drum and also provided the basis for a better understanding of molecular mechanisms of crude oil toxicity in fish.