Exposure to heptachlor: Evaluation of the effects on the larval and adult epidermis of Rana kl. esculenta

Carla Fenoglio, Amelia Grosso, Eleonora Boncompagni, Carlo Gandini, Gloria Milanesi, Sergio Barni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Widely used in the past against termites and soil insects, the chlorinated insecticide heptachlor (H) is a toxic contaminant which represents a risk for both terrestrial and aquatic organisms. Like many organochlorine pesticides, heptachlor and heptachlor epoxide (HE), with oxidation products synthesized by many plant and animal species, degrade slowly since many of the derived compounds are persistent. This increases the status of heptachlor as a hazardous pollutant. In the present experimental study we exposed specimens of Rana kl. esculenta, from the tadpole stage through to their complete metamorphosis, to three different concentrations of heptachlor (4, 40 and 400 ppb). Mortality and HE bioaccumulation were evaluated on all the experimental groups. Since amphibian integument directly interacts with the environmental constituents (water, air and soil), we investigated the toxic effects on the ventral epidermis of both tadpole and adult samples by employing such histo-cytopathological biomarkers as ultrastructural morphology, certain enzyme activities (acid and alkaline phosphatases, AcPase, and AlkPase; succinic dehydrogenase, SDH; α-naphtyl butyrate esterase, ANBE; nitric oxide synthase/NADPH diaphorase, NOS/NADPHd). Also, the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the different conditions were evaluated. The results obtained were of ecological relevance, in particular as regards the effects of this environmental toxicant on the samples of tadpole epidermis. Severe morphological alterations were observed in the larval epidermal cells (apical and skein cells), whereas the cell epidermis (keratinocytes and mitochondria-rich cells) of the adult survivors showed changes in enzyme activities, particularly those involved in the protective response to xenobiotic injury. In general, morpho-histochemical studies, analysis of HE bioaccumulation and mortality showed a relation to the H doses employed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-160
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 31 2009


  • Enzyme histochemistry
  • Epidermis ultrastructure
  • Heptachlor
  • Rana kl. esculenta
  • Survival
  • Tadpoles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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