Benzo[a]pyrene cytotoxicity in right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) skin, testis and lung cell lines

C. A.J. Godard, S. S. Wise, R. S. Kelly, B. Goodale, S. Kraus, T. Romano, T. O'Hara, J. P. Wise

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17 Scopus citations


The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) is one of the most endangered great whales. The NARW population consists of only about 300 individuals and is reproducing at an insufficient rate. There is growing concern about the potential effects of environmental contaminants on the reproductive and overall health of NARW. High contaminant burdens can accumulate in tissues of great whales but toxicological studies of their effects are limited due to legal, logistical and ethical restrictions and specific in vitro models are critically needed. Cell lines from NARW skin and internal organs were previously created in our laboratory. In this study, skin, testis and lung primary fibroblast cell lines were exposed to benzo[a]pyrene (BP) as part of a multi-chemical toxicity testing project in NARW. Cells were exposed for 24-72 h to 10 nM-10 μM BP dissolved in dimethylsulfoxide. Cytotoxicity was measured with a clonogenic assay using standard methods. Some cytotoxicity was observed after 24 h, the highest concentration (10 μM BP) resulting in 77, 74 and 51 percent relative survival in testis, skin and lung cells, respectively, and indicating a higher cytotoxicity in the lung (p < 0.05). After 48 and 72-h exposure, 10 μM BP resulted in 24 and 3, 74 and 27, and 42 and 23 percent relative survival in testis, skin and lung cells, respectively. Cytotoxicity significantly increased with exposure time in all three tissues (p < 0.05 for skin and p < 0.01 for lung and testis), suggesting metabolic activation of BP in the three organs. Fibroblast cytotoxicity observed in the testis was higher than that observed either in the skin or lung after 48 h (p < 0.01) and was close to 100% after 72 h, warranting further investigation of the potential effects of PAHs on reproductive health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S20-S24
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
StatePublished - 2006


  • Cytotoxicity
  • PAH
  • Right whale


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