Mutagenicity of sediments along the Po River and genotoxicity biomarkers in fish from polluted areas

Luigi Viganò, Anna Camoirano, Alberto Izzotti, Francesco D'Agostini, Stefano Polesello, Chiara Francisci, Silvio De Flora

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We monitored the mutagenicity of extracts of sediment fine particles collected, both in the cold season and in the hot season, from 10 reaches along the Po River, the main Italian watercourse. Each sample was representative of several kilometers of river stretch. At sub-toxic doses, the samples were not mutagenic to the Salmonella typhimurium his- strains TA98, TA100 and TA102, irrespective of the presence of S9 mix. However, they induced a mutagenic response in YG1024, which is typically reverted by frameshift mutagens that are metabolized in bacteria via acetyl-CoA:N-hydroxylamine O-acetyltransferase. Mutagenicity of sediments was higher during the cold season and had a spatial distribution consistent with the occurrence of pollution sources and confluence with polluted tributaries. Nevertheless, in the final stretch, near the Po delta into the Adriatic Sea, mutagenicity of sediments was low, comparable to that detected in the Po proximal reach, not far away from its springs. Genotoxicity biomarkers were evaluated in three cyprinid species, the "Italian nase" (Chondrostoma söetta), chub (Leuciscus cephalus), and barbel (Barbus plebejus), captured upstream and downstream of the confluence of a polluted tributary (Lambro River) with the Po River. There was no difference between the two areas concerning concentrations of fluorescent aromatic compounds in fish bile while, after metabolic activation, the bile of fish caught from the more polluted area became mutagenic to YG1024. Moreover, the levels of adducts to liver DNA were significantly higher in L. cephalus caught from the more polluted area, and the increase of micronucleated erythrocyte frequency was borderline to statistical significance, but only in C. söetta. Thus, certain biomarkers of exposure and effect in fish, as assessed under field conditions, correlate with the pollution of river sediments by mutagenic compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-134
Number of pages10
JournalMutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 25 2002



  • Bile
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA adducts
  • Fish
  • Micronuclei
  • Mutagenicity
  • River sediments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Genetics

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