Bioaccumulation and metabolic response of PFAS mixtures in wild-caught freshwater turtles (Emydura macquarii signata) using omics-based ecosurveillance techniques

By David J Beale, Katie Hillyer, Sandra Nilsson, Duncan Limpus, Utpal Bose, James A Broadbent, and Suzanne Vardy
Sci Total Environ
November 2, 2021
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151264

PFAS mixtures in the environment are common and identifying PFAS constituents, bioaccumulation, and biological impacts of mixtures remains a challenge. Here, an ecosurveillance approach was taken to investigate the impacts of PFAS pollution in freshwater turtles (Emydura macquarii signata) using a multi-omics-based approach. Four turtles were collected from an impacted waterway downstream from an industrial source of PFAS contamination in South East Queensland, Australia and analysed for 49 different PFAS. One turtle was collected from a suitable control site. PFAS concentrations were quantified in turtle serum using an established targeted methodology. The serum PFAS concentration was ten-fold greater at the impacted site (Σ49 PFAS 1933 ± 481 ng/mL) relative to the control sample (Σ49 PFAS 140 ng/mL). Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS; 889 ± 56 ng/mL) was 235 times higher in turtle serum than in the water that they were collected from (ΣPFAS 32.0 μg/L). Perfluorobutane sulfonamide (FBSA; 403 ± 83 ng/mL) and perfluorohexane sulfonamide (FHxSA; 550 ± 330 ng/mL) were also reported at substantial concentrations in the serum of impacted turtles. Biochemical profiles were analysed using a mixture of liquid chromatography triple quadrupole (QqQ) and quadrupole time-of-flight (QToF) mass spectrometry methodologies, and demonstrated a positive correlation in the impacted turtles exposed to elevated PFAS with an enhanced purine metabolism, glycerophosphocholines and an innate immune response, which suggest an inflammation response, metabolic preservation and re-routing of central carbon metabolites. Conversely, lipid transport and binding activity were negatively correlated. Using these preliminary data, we were able to demonstrate the negative metabolic impact from PFAS mixtures on turtle metabolic health. With further research on a larger turtle cohort, omics-based data will contribute towards linking adverse outcome pathways for turtle populations exposed to PFAS mixtures. Moreover, expanding the use of ecosurveillance tools will inform mechanistic toxicological data for risk assessment and regulatory applications.


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