Genetics of radionuclide-contaminated mosquitofish populations and homology between Gambusia affinis and G. Holbrooki

Christopher W. Theodorakis, John W. Bickham, Tricia Elbl, Lee R. Shugart, Ronald K. Chesser

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The effects of radionuclide contamination on genetic structure of eastern mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki) populations from the U.S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS) were investigated to develop methods of assessing ecological risk of chronic exposures to xenobiotics. Fish from two contaminated and two reference sites were examined by the randomly amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) technique, which revealed that the frequency of three markers was greater in the contaminated than the reference sites and that the frequency of two markers was greater in the reference than in the contaminated sites. A previous study examined populations of western mosquitofish (G. affinis) from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and found that certain RAPD markers were present in radionuclide-contaminated ORNL populations at a higher frequency than in reference populations. The 'contaminant-indicative' markers observed in the SRS populations were the same size and amplified by the same polymerase chain reaction primers used in the ORNL study. Southern blot analysis revealed that the SRS G. holbrooki contaminant-indicative markers were homologous to the ORNL G. affinis contaminant-indicative markers. The observation that two species show similar patterns of band frequency shifts at two separate localities is consistent with the hypothesis that these DNA markers may originate from genetic elements that provide a selective advantage in contaminated habitats. Thus, the methodology used in these studies may prove to be useful to indicate population-level effects of environmental contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1992-1998
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1998


  • Evolutionary toxicology
  • Gambusia
  • Population genetics
  • Radiation
  • Randomly amplified polymorphic DNA


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