Mercury(II) bioaccumulation and antioxidant physiology in four aquatic insects

1024 681 Stroud Water Research Center

Xie, L., J.L. Flippin, N. Deighton, D.H. Funk, D.A. Dickey, and D.B. Buchwalter. 2009. Environmental Science & Technology 43:934–940.



We examined Hg(II) bioaccumulation and compartmentalization patterns in conjunction with antioxidant responses in four aquatic insect species: two caddisflies (Chimarra sp. and Hydropsyche betteni) and two mayflies (Maccaffertium modestum and Isonychia sp). Total antioxidant capabilities differed among unexposed larvae, with both caddisfly species exhibiting elevated antioxidant activities relative to the mayflies. We were able to account for these differences by examining the constitutive activities of catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione S-transferase (GST), and superoxide dismutase (SOD), in the four species. We also examined levels of reduced and oxidized glutathione and cysteine in the insects. Glutathione peroxidase and SOD were the most responsive to Hg exposure, with GPx catalytic activity increasing between 50 and 310%. Superoxide dismutase activity decreased between 35 and 50%. This SOD suppression was shown to be dose-dependent in both caddisflies, but the strength of this suppression did not appear to be related to rates of uptake. Surprisingly, little Hg (<10%) was found in the heat-stable cytosolic protein subcellular compartment in each of the four species, suggesting that Hg was not well detoxified. By combining bioaccumulation studies with other physiological measures, we can begin to better understand the consequences of trace metal pollutants in nature.