In a study published in the February 18, 2011, online issue of Science, they report that a population of Hudson River fish apparently evolved rapidly in response to the toxic chemicals, which were first introduced in 1929, and were banned fifty years later. PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications, especially as electrical insulators.
“We’ve found evolutionary change going on very quickly due to toxic exposure, and just one gene is responsible for it,” says Isaac Wirgin, a population geneticist, associate professor of environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine, and the study’s lead investigator. “There are not many examples of this in the scientific literature."
General Electric released approximately 1.3 million pounds of PCBs into the Hudson River from 1947 to 1976. The Atlantic tomcod, Microgadus tomcod, is a common bottom-feeding fish in the Hudson that is not usually eaten by humans. The fish, which typically reaches a length of 10 inches, had long been known to survive exposure to PCBs, and levels of the chemical in its liver are among the highest reported in nature. However, scientists did not understand the biological mechanism that allowed the tomcod to survive chemical exposures that kill most other fishes.
Dr. Wirgin and scientists at NOAA Fisheries Service in New Jersey and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts spent four years capturing tomcod from contaminated and relatively clean areas of the Hudson River during the winter months, when tomcod spawn in the river. The fish were screened for genetic variants in a gene encoding a protein known to regulate the toxic effects of PCBs, which is called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor2, or AHR2. This gene also is involved in mediating the effects of other halogenated hydrocarbon compounds, a group that includes PCBs.
Slight alterations—the deletion of only six base pairs in DNA of the AHR2 gene—appear to protect tomcod from PCBs, according to the study. Normally, when unaltered AHR2 binds to PCBs, it triggers a cascade of reactions that transmit the toxic effects of the compound. However, the study found that PCBs bind poorly to the variant AHRs, which apparently blunts the chemicals’ effects.
Tomcod from cleaner waters occasionally carried mutant AHR2, suggesting that these variants existed in minor proportions prior to PCB pollution, says Dr. Wirgin. After the chemical was released, tomcod carrying the mutation had an advantage over others in the population because PCBs otherwise lead to lethal heart defects in young fish. The study’s findings suggest that this advantage drove genetic changes in these fish over some fifty years. “We think of evolution as something that happens over thousands of generations,” says Dr. Wirgin. “But here it happened remarkably quickly.”
The study co-authors are: Nirmal K. Roy and Matthew Loftus, the NYU School of Medicine; R. Christopher Chambers, the NOAA Fisheries Service, Highland, New Jersey; and Diana G. Franks and Mark E. Hahn, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.About NYU School of Medicine:
Lorinda Klein | Newswise Science News
Study identifies RNA molecule that shields breast cancer stem cells from immune system
23.05.2017 | Princeton University
“Pregnant” Housefly Males Demonstrate the Evolution of Sex Determination
23.05.2017 | Universität Zürich
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy