DAO 32:119-135 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/dao032119

Hydropic vacuolation in the liver of three species of fish from the U.S. West Coast: lesion description and risk assessment associated with contaminant exposure

C. M. Stehr*, L. L. Johnson, M. S. Myers

Northwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2725 Montlake Blvd. E., Seattle, Washington 98112, USA

Hydropic vacuolation (HydVac) of biliary epithelial cells and hepatocytes is described for 3 species of U.S. West Coast bottom fishes. Risk assessment analyses are also conducted to determine if the prevalence of this lesion increases in association with contaminant exposure and site of capture. The morphology of HydVac in starry flounder Platichthys stellatus, white croaker Genyonemus lineatus and rock sole Lepidopsetta bilineata was similar to that described in winter flounder Pleuronectes americanus from the U.S. Atlantic Coast, especially in that HydVac most commonly affected biliary epithelial cells. Hydropic vacuolation was the most prevalent liver lesion in starry flounder and white croaker captured from contaminated environments. Risk assessment analyses confirmed that the relative risk for HydVac increased with the presence of aromatic and chlorinated hydrocarbons in sediment, fish bile, and fish liver for these species. Hydropic vacuolation also frequently occurred in rock sole, but the lesion showed no clear association with contaminant exposure in this species. The types of liver lesions that were useful biomarkers of contaminant effects in fish depended on the species and this factor must be taken into account when evaluating histopathological biomarkers of response to contaminant exposure.


Fish · Contaminants · Liver disease · Hydropic vacuolation · Biomarkers · Risk assessment


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