How healthy is that fish? Liver tests help understand pollution impacts in Port Phillip Bay

By Dingkun Fu, Andrew Bridle, Melanie Leef, Marthe Monique Gagnon, Kathryn L. Hassell and  Barbara F. Nowak

Port Phillip Bay sand flathead

Port Phillip Bay sand flathead.

Using a multi-biomarker approach to assess the effects of pollution on sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) from Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia

This article was published online in Marine Pollution Bulletin on April 6th 2017. For more information please contact Kathryn Hassell


Hepatic gene expression and liver histology were examined in sand flathead (Platycephalus bassensis) from six locations in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia. Four sets of genes including thyroid-related genes (D1, D2, TTR, TRα and TRβ), metal metabolism-related genes (MT, MTF1, TF, Ferritin and FPN1), apoptosis-related genes (Diablo/SMAC1, Diablo/SMAC2 and CYP1A) and an endoplasmic reticulum stress biomarker gene (GRP78) were examined in female flathead using qRT-PCR. TRβ and Diablo/SMAC1 gene expression was significantly up-regulated in fish from all polluted sites compared to those from a reference site. The transcripts of TRα and FPN1 were significantly higher in flathead from Corio Bay, while the hepatic mRNA of TTR and GRP78 were significantly lower in those fish. Positive correlations were observed between Diablo/SMAC1 and CYP1A, D2 and TRβ, TRα and TRβ. This study demonstrates that application of pathway-based biomarker genes and histopathology can provide comprehensive information on the impact of environmental pollutants on fish.