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Effects of polychlorobiphenyls, polybromodiphenylethers, organochlorine pesticides and their metabolites on vitamin A status in lactating grey seals

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Marie Vanden Berghe, L Weijs, Sarah Habran, Krishna Das, C Bugli, S Pillet, J-F Rees, Patrick Pomeroy, Adrian Covaci, Cathy Debier

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Polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs), polybromodiphenylethers (PBDEs) and organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), are considered as endocrine disruptors in laboratory and wild animals. This study investigated whether these compounds and their hydroxylated metabolites (HO-PCBs and HO-PBDEs) may affect the homoeostasis of vitamin A, a dietary hormone, in the blubber and serum of twenty lactating grey seals sampled at early and late lactation on the Isle of May, Scotland. The effect of naturally produced compounds such as the methoxylated (MeO)-PBDEs was also examined. Vitamin A levels in inner blubber (37±9 μg/g wet weight (ww) and 92±32 μg/g ww at early and late lactation, respectively) and serum (408±143 and 390±98 ng/ml at early and late lactation, respectively) appeared to be positively related to ΣPCBs, ΣPBDEs and several individual PCB and PBDE congeners in inner blubber and serum. These findings may suggest enhanced mobilisation of hepatic retinoid stores and redistribution in the blubber, a storage site for vitamin A in marine mammals. We have also reported that serum concentrations of ΣHO-PCBs and 4-OH-CB107 tended to increase with circulating vitamin A levels. Although the direction of the relationships may sometimes differ from those reported in the literature, our results are in agreement with previous findings highlighting a disruption of vitamin A homoeostasis in the blubber and bloodstream following exposure to environmental pollutants. The fact that vitamin A and PCBs appeared to share common mechanisms of mobilisation and transfer during lactation in grey seals (Debier et al., 2004; Vanden Berghe et al., 2010) may also play a role in the different relationships observed between vitamin A and lipophilic pollutants.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-26
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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