• Sensitivity to hydrocarbons and cytochrome P4501A enzyme activity in Arctic marine birds and waterfowl

      Riddle-Berntsen, Ann E.; Hollmén, Tuula; Buck, C. Loren; Aguilar-Islas, Ana (2017-12)
      The Arctic is host to a taxonomically diverse group of birds, including species of conservation and subsistence importance that spend many months of their annual cycle in the region. With prospects for oil and gas resource development and increases in vessel traffic in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, arctic birds could be valuable bioindicators to monitor contaminants and specifically hydrocarbons from crude oil. Using liver cytochrome P4501A (CYP1A) activity, I measured levels of hydrocarbon exposure in three bird species of subsistence importance: king eiders (Somateria spectabilis), common eiders (Somateria mollissima), and greater white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons). Over the course of three years, I collected liver samples during spring and fall hunts near Utqiaġvik (formally Barrow) and validated methods for both direct-take and opportunistic liver sampling. Enzyme activity results show significant differences in CYP1A activity levels among species, seasons, and years. Except birds collected during fall 2014, when significantly high enzyme activity was observed in all sampled species, all other collections resulted in median activity levels similar to those reported in other sea duck species in Alaska from un-oiled or non-industrialized habitats. I also used species-specific hepatocyte culture in a broader selection of arctic marine birds and waterfowl candidate bioindicators to assess and compare species CYP1A activity responses as a measure of sensitivity to hydrocarbons. Cytochrome P4501A results from hepatocyte cultures dosed with positive control reference reagents and Alaska North Slope crude oil showed differences in species responses. Based on sensitivity results, I recommend the common eider and common murre (Uria aalge) as bioindicators for use in CYP1A monitoring due to their consistent and measureable responses in our experiments. However, additional species are promising candidates (e.g., tufted puffin; Fratercula cirrhata) but further testing is needed. This is the first study of reference hydrocarbon exposure and comparative laboratory assessment of CYP1A inducing compounds for arctic marine birds and waterfowl and these results form the basis for hydrocarbon monitoring programs and risk assessments.