Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) modulate both phagocytosis and NK cell activity in vitro in juvenile loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta)

Estelle Rousselet, Milton Levin, Erika Gebhard, Benjamin M. Higgins, Sylvain DeGuise, Céline A.J. Godard-Codding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Threatened loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) face numerous environmental challenges, including exposure to anthropogenic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Despite being banned by the USA in the 1970s, PCBs persist in the environment and produce immunotoxic effects in a wide range of marine vertebrate species. This is of particular concern, as the modulation of the immune system may enhance the susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. Blood samples were collected from 19 immature, captive-reared loggerhead sea turtles. Functional immune assays phagocytosis and natural killer (NK) cell activity were used to quantify the direct effects of PCB congeners 105, 138, and 169 on innate immune functions upon in vitro exposure of sea turtle cells to increasing concentrations (control (0), 0.5, 1, 2.5, 5, 10, 15, or 20 ppm) of each PCB. PCB 105 significantly elevated eosinophil phagocytosis at 10 and 15 ppm and PCB 138 at 15 ppm compared to unexposed (0 ppm). The effects of PCB 169 on phagocytosis were not evaluated. PCB 138 and 105 significantly decreased NK cell activity at 15 and 20 ppm, compared to unexposed (0 ppm) controls. PCB 169 did not markedly modulate NK activity. This constitutes the first study to investigate the in vitro effects of these three PCBs on sea turtle innate immune functions. These results add to our understanding of PCB-induced immunotoxicity in sea turtles and may provide a framework for establishing the relationships between chemical levels and turtle immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-561
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A: Current Issues
Issue number10-12
StatePublished - Jun 18 2017


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