Science Applications in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Special Feature: Genomic and physiological footprint of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on resident marsh fishes

Andrew Whitehead, Benjamin Dubansky, Charlotte Bodinier, Tzintzuni I. Garcia, Scott Miles, Chet Pilley, Vandana Raghunathan, Jennifer L. Roach, Nan Walker, Ronald B. Walter, Charles D. Rice, and Fernando Galvez

The biological consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are unknown, especially for resident organisms. Here, we report results from a field study tracking the effects of contaminating oil across space and time in resident killifish during the first 4 mo of the spill event. Remote sensing and analytical chemistry identified exposures, which were linked to effects in fish characterized by genome expression and associated gill immunohistochemistry, despite very low concentrations of hydrocarbons remaining in water and tissues. Divergence in genome expression coincides with contaminating oil and is consistent with genome responses that are predictive of exposure to hydrocarbon-like chemicals and indicative of physiological and reproductive impairment. Oil-contaminated waters are also associated with aberrant protein expression in gill tissues of larval and adult fish. These data suggest that heavily weathered crude oil from the spill imparts significant biological impacts in sensitive Louisiana marshes, some of which remain for over 2 mo following initial exposures.

Ref: PNAS, Sept. 1, 2011

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