Interspecies differences in mammalian susceptibility to legacy POPs and trace metals using skin fibroblast cells

Yajing Sun, Ying Zeng, Imran Rashid Rajput, Edmond Sanganyado, Ruiqiang Zheng, Huiying Xie, Chengzhang Li, Ziyao Tian, Ying Huang, Liangliang Yang, Jianqing Lin, Ping Li, Bo Liang*, Wenhua Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

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The susceptibility to trace metals and legacy POPs is different between terrestrial and marine mammals. In this study, we established the first cell line from Indo-Pacific finless porpoises and compared the cellular responses of skin fibroblast cells from Pygmy killer whales, Pantropic spotted dolphins, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises, mice, and humans following exposure to copper, methylmercury, cadmium, PCB126, PCB153, and BDE47 to better understand the interspecies sensitivities of mammals to chemical pollutants. We conducted a risk assessment by comparing no-observed effect concentrations (NOEC), lowest-observed effect concentrations (LOEC), and half maximal effective concentrations (EC50) from cell viability assays and previously reported pollutant body burdens in mammals. Based on the in vitro data, Indo-Pacific finless porpoises were more sensitive to copper and methylmercury than other mammals. PCB153 exposure reduced cell viability in all mammals except humans, while PCB126 was more potent, with 13.33 μg/mL exposure reducing cell viability in all mammals. In contrast, BDE47 exposure reduced cell viability only in terrestrial mammals in addition to pantropic spotted dolphin. Based on the in vitro data and the natural context of metal concentrations, both methylmercury and cadmium posed a higher risk to cetaceans than human, while copper posed a lower risk to cetaceans. All three legacy POPs (PCB126, PCB153, and BDE47) posed minor risk to cetaceans for short-term exposure. This study demonstrated that a species-specific in vitro model may provide more accurate information on the potential risk of pollutants to mammals. However, due to the bioamplification of POPs and their potential impact on the endocrine system and immune system of cetaceans, risk assessment with long-term exposure with more in vitro models should be further studied.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120358
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date10 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022


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