Observations in a previous study on biomarker responses in fish collected from urban creeks in Greenville, SC, indicated that there might be considerable differences in the expression of biotransformation enzymes in chub and sunfish species. To further investigate these species differences a dosing experiment was performed in which bluehead and creek chub (Nocomis leptocephalus and Semotilus atromaculatus), and redbreast sunfish, pumpkinseed, and bluegill (Lepomis auritus, L. gibbosus, and L. macrochirus) were injected with benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) as a model compound for common pollutants in urban creeks. Fish were injected with BaP doses of 0, 25 and 50 mg/kg, and after 3 days BaP metabolites in bile, and enzymatic activities of cytochrome P450-1A (CYP1A), UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) and glutathione S-transferase (GST) were measured. CYP1A activity was significantly increased after BaP dosing in both species groups, but chubs had significantly lower levels than were observed in the dosed sunfish. The UGT activity in unexposed animals was comparable in both species groups, and significantly increased in both groups as a result of BaP dosage. Finally, GST activity was significantly higher in chubs, but did not change in either species group as a result of BaP exposure. There were no significant differences between species within each species group, and the results confirmed that unexposed chubs have much lower CYP1A activity, but a much higher GST activity than unexposed sunfish. The metabolized BaP was excreted in both species groups, but at the time of sampling there were no differences in the amount of BaP metabolites in the bile of dosed animals. The differences in baseline enzyme activity and induction capacity between both species groups are an example of phylogenetically determined differences between fish families, and may explain why chubs are in general more sensitive to exposure to environmental pollutants than sunfish. This conclusion was corroborated by the observation that the highest BaP dose of 50 mg/kg was close to the apparent LC50 for chub, while no mortality was observed in the sunfish at this dose.
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