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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 88:235-248 (2010)  -  DOI:

Assessment of fish health status in the Upper Danube River by investigation of ultrastructural alterations in the liver of barbel Barbus barbus

Stefanie Grund1,*, Steffen Keiter1, Melanie Böttcher1, Nadja Seitz1, Karl Wurm2, Werner Manz3, Henner Hollert1,4, Thomas Braunbeck1

1Aquatic Ecology and Toxicology Section, Department of Zoology, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 230, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
2Gewässerökologisches Labor, Tulpenstr. 4, 72181 Starzach, Germany
3German Federal Institute of Hydrology, Biochemistry/Ecotoxicology, Am Mainzer Tor 1, 56068 Koblenz, Germany
4Department of Ecosystem Analysis, Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1,
52074 Aachen, Germany

ABSTRACT: Despite intensive efforts and tightened guidelines for improvement of water quality over the last 2 decades, declines of fish populations have been reported for several rivers around the world. The present study forms part of a comprehensive weight-of-evidence approach, which aims to identify potential causes for the decline in fish catches observed in the Upper Danube River. The major focus of the present study is the investigation of the health status of wild barbel Barbus barbus L. collected from 3 locations along the Danube River, which experienced different levels of contamination. Whereas the comparison of the condition factor (CF) of field fish with that of control fish revealed no differences, ultrastructural investigations indicated severe disturbance of hepatic cell metabolism in field fish from the more contaminated sites Rottenacker and Ehingen, compared to both control fish and field fish from the less contaminated site Riedlingen. The ultrastructural analysis provided information about reactions of e.g. the rough endoplasmic reticulum, peroxisomes, and mitochondria, indicating an impaired health status of barbel at the sampling sites Rottenacker and Ehingen. Even though a straightforward cause-effect relationship between sediment contamination and ultrastructural alterations could not be established, based on a meta-analysis and toxicity assays it may be suggested that sediment-bound xenobiotics at least partly account for the hepatocellular changes. A relationship between impaired fish health status and the decline of fish catches along the Upper Danube River cannot be excluded.

KEY WORDS: Danube River · Fish · Population decline · Liver ultrastructure · Barbus barbus · Condition factor · Sediment

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Cite this article as: Grund S, Keiter S, Böttcher M, Seitz N and others (2010) Assessment of fish health status in the Upper Danube River by investigation of ultrastructural alterations in the liver of barbel Barbus barbus. Dis Aquat Org 88:235-248.

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