Student Research Publications

Effect of chloride on nitrite-induced methaemoglobinemia in Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus (Mitchill)




Matsche, M.A., E. Markin, E. Donaldson*, A. Hengst, and A. Lazur


Journal of Fish Diseases 35:873-885


We evaluated the effects of chloride concentration on the clinical pathology in juvenile Atlantic sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus (Mitchill), following semi-static exposures to 1 mg L(-1) nitrite for 96 h. In spring water naturally low in chloride (5 mg L(-1)), plasma nitrite concentrated to more than 40× environmental levels resulting in a severe methaemoglobinemia characterized by torpid behaviour, 30-fold increase in methaemoglobin fraction, anaemia, leucopenia and hyperkalaemia. Loss of intracellular water and potassium to extracellular space may have resulted in hyperkalaemia and haemodilution. Fish survived nitrite exposure, but 60% of torpid fish died following capture and tissue sampling. Fish acclimated to 10-fold higher chloride content (55 mg L(-1)) did not concentrate nitrite in the plasma above environmental levels or develop methaemoglobinemia, but did exhibit similar haematology and plasma chemistry changes. Plasma nitrite returned to preexposure levels by 14 days following nitrite exposures, but severity of clinical pathology changes persisted or increased, suggesting that Atlantic sturgeon have reduced capacity to recover from methaemoglobinemia. Fish that survive methaemoglobinemia may be susceptible to mortality from the cumulative effects of intoxication, handling and other stresses for two or more weeks following nitrite remediation. Chloride buffering in aquaculture systems reduces the toxic effects of nitrite accumulation.


Andy Lazur, Ph.D.


Emily Donaldson, Wilmington College
The REU students are indicated with an asterisk (*).

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