Evidence of an altered protective effect of metallothioneins after cadmium exposure in the digenean parasite-infected cockle (Cerastoderma edule)

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The aim of the present study was to analyse the relation between parasitism and subsequent metallothioneins (MT) in the case of metal contamination. Experimental exposure of parasitized and unparasitized cockles (Cerastoderma edule) to cadmium (Cd) was performed, with the cockle as first or second intermediate host of 2 digenean species. After 7 days of Cd exposure in microcosms, cockles infected as first intermediate host by Labratrema minimus exhibited metal concentrations in tissues double that in uninfected cockles. Jointly, MT concentrations of parasitized cockles were not modified in comparison with uninfected individuals in which concentrations were increased 4·3-fold compared with controls. In cockles experimentally infected as the second intermediate host by Himasthla elongata, cadmium concentrations significantly increased again in parasitized cockles compared with uninfected individuals in contaminated conditions. Simultaneously, MT concentrations in healthy cockles increased, whereas they significantly decreased in parasitized individuals. Therefore, the presence of digenean parasites in Cd-exposed cockles leads to a maintenance or a decrease in MT concentrations compared with healthy individuals, whereas Cd accumulation in tissues is significantly increased. These experiments indicate a significant alteration of the protective effect of metallothioneins towards metals which could consequently enhance cockle vulnerability. Moreover, these results highlight the limit of the use of MT as a biomarker of metal pollution in field monitoring if parasitism is not taken into account.

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