Hexavalentchromium Cr(VI) is an important contaminant released from both domestic and industrial effluents, and represents the predominant chemical form of the metal in aquatic ecosystems. In the marine bivalve Mytilusgalloprovincialis exposure to non-toxic, environmentallyrelevantconcentrations of Cr(VI) was shown to modulate functional parameters and gene expression in both the digestive gland and hemocytes. In this work, the effects of exposure to Cr(VI) (0.1–1–10 μg L−1 animal−1 for 96 h) in mussel gills were investigated. Gill morphology and immunolocalization of GSH-transferase (GST), of components involved in cholinergic (AChE and ChAT), adrenergic (TH) and serotoninergic (5-HT3 receptor) systems, regulating gill motility, were evaluated. Total glutathione content, activities of GSH-related enzymes (glutathione reductase – GSR, GST), of catalase, and of key glycolytic enzymes (phosphofructokinase – PFK and pyruvate kinase – PK) were determined. Moreover, mRNA expression of selected Mytilus genes (GST-π, metallothionein isoforms MT10 and MT20, HSP70 and 5-HT receptor) was assessed by RT-q-PCR. Cr(VI) exposure induced progressive changes in gill morphology and in immunoreactivity to components involved in neurotransmission that were particularly evident at the highest concentration tested, and associated with large metal accumulation. Cr(VI) increased the activities of GST and GSR, and total glutathione content to a different extent at different metal concentrations, this suggesting Cr(VI) detoxication/reduction at the site of metal entry. Cr(VI) exposure also increased the activity of glycolytic enzymes, indicating modulation of carbohydrate metabolism. Significant changes in transcription of different genes were observed. In particular, the mRNA level for the 5-HTR was increased, whereas both decreases and increases were observed for GST-π, MT10, MT20 and HSP70 mRNAs, showing sex- and concentration-related differences. The results demonstrate that Cr(VI) significantly affected functional and molecular parameters in mussel gills, and indicate that this tissue represents the major target of exposure to environmentallyrelevantconcentrations of the metal.
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