Morphofunctional evidence of changes in principal and mitochondria-rich cells in the epidermis of the frog Rana kl. esculenta living in a polluted habitat

C. Fenoglio, A. Grosso, E. Boncompagni, G. Milanesi, C. Gandini, S. Barni

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The epidermis of vertebrates is the body's principal barrier against environment and its possible contaminants. The presence of keratins, as well as specific detoxifying molecules or enzyme activities, in the various epidermis layers is believed to be involved in providing protection from harmful environmental influences. Anuran integument is poorly hornified and thus permeable to some endogenous and exogenous compounds and thus serves as a good bioindicator of overall environmental conditions. In the present investigation, we studied the epidermis of Rana kl. esculenta adult specimens collected at two different rice fields, relatively unpolluted and heavily polluted, respectively. Environmental pollution was assayed by chemical analysis performed on both sediments and animals. We evaluated the structural aspects of the epidermis at both light and electron microscopy levels and the pattern of keratinization by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, we studied the activities of some enzymes (acid and alkaline phosphatase, nitric oxide synthase-related nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate dehydrogenase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, catalase, nonspecific esterases, and succinic dehydrogenase) involved mainly in membrane transport, xenobiotics, and oxidative metabolism. Compared with controls, in polluted animals we found the following results: (1) an increase in pollutant levels (i.e., cadmium, mercury, and lead); (2) less keratinized superficial cells in the epidermis; and (3) changes in most enzyme activities in keratinocytes and mitochondria-rich cells (particularly glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase and esterases, both important to counteract oxidative and toxic stress). Taken as a whole, the present data indicate the morphofunctional plasticity of the frog epidermis in response to environmental contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)690-702
Number of pages13
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Toxicology


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