Genetics and marine pollution (review)

Dixon, D.R.; Wilson, J.T.. 2000 Genetics and marine pollution (review). Hydrobiologia, 420. 29-43.

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The development of cytogenetic methods applied to cells and tissues of marine invertebrates has been hampered by (1) a lack of in vitro cell lines, (2) inadequate karyotypic information (partly as a result of too few workers chasing too many organisms), and (3) the failure of their chromosomes to band satisfactorily. Compared to mammalian cytogenetics, our knowledge of marine invertebrates lags behind by several decades. With the current concern about mutagens in the marine environment, and the recognition that the cells of marine species have sensitivities to DNA-damaging agents similar to those of higher organisms, there is a need for methods which can be used (a) in environmental monitoring and (b) to screen potentially harmful substances in the laboratory. In the absence of in vitro cell lines, embryos and larvae have been used to provide a supply of dividing cells for mutation studies, although the advent of molecular methods has now brought with it the means to detect DNA damage without any need for the cells to be in a dividing state. Moreover, the use of FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridisation) now makes it possible to study numerical and structural chromosomal aberrations with far greater accuracy than was previously possible. A new marine genotoxicity assay is described, based on the embryos and larvae of a tube-dwelling polychaete worm (Pomatoceros lamarkii), suitable for both laboratory studies and field monitoring. This new Pomatoceros assay provides, at the same time, a useful model for studying the consequences of adult exposure on the offspring. A novel application of marine cytogenetic research is the study of the evolutionary adaptations of invertebrates living in naturally polluted extreme environments viz. deep sea hydrothermal vents, which are typified by high levels of toxic heavy metals and radionuclides, substances known to inflict damage to DNA. Given these new methodological and conceptual advances, it is predicted that our understanding of the role played by mutation in the marine environment, both in an evolutionary and toxicological context, will increase dramatically over the next decade.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0018-8158
Additional Keywords: cytogenetics, mutations, DNA, chromosomes, karyotypes
Date made live: 22 Oct 2008 +0 (UTC)

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