Dietary cadmium and benzo(a)pyrene increased intestinal metallothionein expression in the fish Fundulus heteroclitus
Fish were individually fed food pellets containing cadmium, benzo(a)pyrene, or a combination of the two, then analyzed for metallothionein mRNA expression in the intestine, liver, and gill using real-time RTqPCR. An initial experiment using only cadmium showed that ingestion of pellets varied in individual fish, and estimates of cadmium dose from the numbers of ingested pellets indicated considerable individual variability in cadmium dose. Induction of intestinal metallothionein mRNA was apparent, however, and a linear dose–response relationship was observed for metallothionein expression and cadmium dose in the intestine, but not the other organs, which showed no induction. In a second experiment, the ntire daily cadmium dose was provided in a single contaminated pellet that was consumed by all treated fish, effectively eliminating the effect of variable ingestion rates on dose, and the interaction between cadmium and benzo(a)pyrene was also investigated. The intestine was again the primary organ for metallothionein induction by cadmium. When benzo(a)pyrene was administered together with cadmium, induction of metallothionein was potentiated by the presence of benzo(a)pyrene, with the main effect seen in the intestine, where already high levels of induction by cadmium alone increased by 1.74-fold when benzo(a)pyrene was present.