Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 227–239 | Cite as

Toxicity of erythromycin to Oncorhynchus mykiss at different biochemical levels: detoxification metabolism, energetic balance, and neurological impairment

  • Sara Rodrigues
  • Sara C. Antunes
  • Alberto T. Correia
  • Bruno NunesEmail author
Research Article


During the last decades, the presence of antibiotics in different aquatic compartments has raised increasing interest and concern, since these compounds are usually persistent and bioactive pseudo pollutants. Erythromycin (ERY) is a macrolide antibiotic, prescribed for human and veterinary medicines but also used in aquaculture and livestock production. Taking into account the recorded environmental levels of ERY, its toxicity to non-target organisms has become a still poorly studied issue, particularly in fish. In this sense, this study investigated the acute and chronic effects of realistic levels of ERY on Oncorhynchus mykiss (rainbow trout), namely, through the quantification of the activity of enzymes involved in different biochemical pathways, such as detoxification (phase I—7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD); phase II—glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), uridine-diphosphate-glucuronosyltransferases (UGTs)), neurotransmission (acetylcholinesterase (AChE)), and energy production (lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)). Both types of exposure caused significant increases in EROD activity in liver of O. mykiss; an increase in GST activity in gills after chronic exposure was also observed. UGT branchial activity was significantly depressed, following the long-term exposure. Thus, EROD, GST, and UGT enzymatic forms seem to be involved in the biotransformation of ERY. In terms of neurotransmission and preferential pathway of energy homeostasis, the exposed organisms appear not to have been affected, as there were no significant alterations in terms of AChE and LDH activities, respectively. The here-obtained data suggest that the observed alterations in terms of detoxification enzymes may have prevented the establishment of a set of toxic responses, namely, neurotoxic and metabolic disorders.


Fish Exposures Antibiotic Biotransformation Neurotransmission Energy production 



Sara Rodrigues and Sara C. Antunes received a Ph.D. fellowship (SFRH/BD/84061/2012) and a post-doc grant (SFRH/BPD/109951/2015), respectively, by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT). Bruno Nunes was hired through the Investigator FCT program (IF/01744/2013).


This research was partially supported by the Strategic Funding UID/Multi/04423/2013 through national funds provided by Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in the framework of the program PT2020. This research was also financially supported for CESAM (UID/AMB/50017-POCI-01-0145-FEDER-007638), to FCT/MCTES through national funds (PIDDAC), and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Rodrigues
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sara C. Antunes
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alberto T. Correia
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bruno Nunes
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Biologia da Faculdade de CiênciasUniversidade do Porto (FCUP)PortoPortugal
  2. 2.Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental (CIIMAR/CIMAR)Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de LeixõesMatosinhosPortugal
  3. 3.Faculdade de Ciências da SaúdeUniversidade Fernando Pessoa (FCS-UFP)PortoPortugal
  4. 4.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade de Aveiro (UA)AveiroPortugal
  5. 5.Centro de Estudos do Ambiente e do Mar (CESAM), Campus de SantiagoUniversidade de AveiroAveiroPortugal

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