Mechanisms of PAH Developmental Toxicity and Evolved Resistance: The Elizabeth River Killifish Story


Thursday, June 30, 2011
Redfield Auditorium - 12:00 Noon
Dr. Richard Di Giulio
Professor Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Portions of the Elizabeth River, an estuary in southeastern Virginia, are highly contaminated with polycyclic aromatics hydrocarbons (PAHs), largely as a result of former wood-treatment plants that employed creosote. The most studied portion of the river in terms of contamination is the Atlantic Wood Industries Superfund site. A population of Atlantic killifish or mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) inhabiting this site display elevated rates of liver cancer, not surprising in light of the levels of carcinogenic PAHs present there. However, they display a remarkable resistance to the acute effects of PAHs such as larval and embryotoxicity, compared to killifish populations from relatively uncontaminated sites. This presentation will discuss mechanisms underlying this adaptation to pollution as well as evolutionary consequences and considerations relevant to remediation of the Elizabeth River. Additionally, mechanisms by which PAHs perturb embryonic development, addressed with both the killifish and zebrafish models, will be discussed.