[MARMAM] Health and pollutions studies on harbour seals

Antje Kakuschke antjekakuschke at web.de
Sat Nov 28 08:03:42 PST 2009

Dear all,

two new publications to harbour seals of the North Sea are now available. One study investigated the influence of mercury on the immune system and the second study is a basic health study to the acute phase protein haptoglobin. 

For further information see abstracts below. Do not hesitate to contact me, if you would like to get further details to these studies.

Mail please to: antjekakuschke at web.de.

Best wishes
Antje Kakuschke

Kakuschke, A., Valentine-Thon, E., Fonfara, S., Kramer, K., Prange, A. Effects of methyl-, phenyl-, ethylmercury and mercurychlorid on immune cells of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). Journal of Environmental Sciences 21(2009) 1716–1721.

Abstract: Mercury (Hg) is present in the marine environment as a natural metal often enhanced through human activities. Depending on its chemical form, Hg can cause a wide range of immunotoxic effects. In this study, the influence of methyl-, ethyl- and phenylmercury as well as mercurychloride on immune functions was evaluated. Two parameters of cellular immunity, proliferation and mRNA cytokine expression of interleukin-2, -4, and transforming growth factor, were investigated in harbor seal lymphocytes after in vitro exposure
to Hg compounds. While all Hg compounds had a suppressive effect on proliferation, differences between juvenile and adult seals were found. Lymphocytes from juveniles showed a higher susceptibility to the toxic effect compared to lymphocytes from adults. Furthermore, the degree of inhibition of proliferation varied among the four Hg compounds. The organic compounds seem to be more immunotoxic than the inorganic compound. Finally, for the cytokine expression of methylmercury-incubated lymphocytes, timedependent changes were observed, but no dose-dependency was found. Marine mammals of the North Sea are burdened with Hg, and lymphocytes of harbor seals may be functionally impaired by this metal. The present in vitro study provides baseline information for future studies on the immunotoxic effects of Hg on cellular immunity of harbor seals.

Kakuschke, A., Erbsloeh, H.-B., Griesel. S., Prange, A. Acute phase protein haptoglobin in blood plasma samples of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) of the Wadden Sea and of the isle Helgoland. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 155 (2010) 67–71.

Abstract: Haptoglobin (Hp) which is synthesized in response to infection, inflammation, trauma or toxicological damage is known as a major acute phase protein in numerous species. Quantification of the circulating concentration of this protein can provide an objective measure of the health status, but there is a lack of investigations on harbour seals. We investigated the Hp concentration in samples of 123 seals (Phoca vitulina) from the German and Danish Wadden Sea to study physiological ranges of Hp levels. Hp levels between 2002, the end of the phocine distemper virus epidemic (PDV), and 2007 were considered, and Hp concentrations between animals of different sex, ages as well as living areas were compared. Furthermore, as a case study, six animals from the open sea isle Helgoland were investigated in 2006. Influences on the health status of the seal population e.g. the PDV epidemic were reflected by increased Hp levels in North Sea seals in 2002. The results of the Wadden Sea seals showed no significant age-, sex-, or geographical area-related differences. Interestingly, for the seals of the open sea isle Helgoland higher Hp values were measured compared to the Wadden Sea seals. The present study demonstrates that Hp can be used as a diagnostic tool to monitor the health status of harbour seals.

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