Toxicological effects and behavioural and biochemical responses of Oreochromis mossambicus gills and its cholinesterase to copper: a biomarker application

  • A. A. Basirun
  • S. A. Ahmad
  • N. A. Yasid
  • M. K. Sabullah
  • H. M. Daud
  • S. Sha’arani
  • A. Khalid
  • M. Y. ShukorEmail author
Original Paper


Gills are both morphologically and physiologically complex whereby they perform several functions such as gas exchange, ion and water exchange, acid base balance, nitrogenous waste excretion, and other metabolic transformations. They are one of the first fish organs to be exposed to heavy metals in the aquatic environment. The exposure of Oreochromis mossambicus to copper showed deleterious effects to normal fish behaviours and varying degrees of gill damage when visualized under inverted light microscopy (stained with haematoxylin–eosin), scanning electron microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. Abnormalities of the nucleus shape, swollen cells, lipid droplet deposition, and an increase in vacuolation on the affected gills were observed with the degree of damage associated with CuSO4 exposure concentration. CuSO4 exposure in O. mossambicus also gave various patterns of inhibitory effects on cholinesterase (ChE) depending on the concentration of exposure and the organs exposed. Copper exposure altered ChE activity extracted from the gills of O. mossambicus with 99.9% of inhibition at the highest exposure concentration of CuSO4 (20 mg/L). Hence, this study suggests the potential of this fish to become a sentinel species that permits the detection of lower copper contamination levels.


Acute toxicity Copper Cholinesterase Histopathology Oreochromis mossambicus 



This research was supported by grants from The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) Grant No. (02-01-04-SF1473SF), ScienceFund MOSTI (02-01-04-SF0445) and Putra-IPS Grant (9481400). We also thank Universiti Putra Malaysia for providing a GRF scholarship to Miss Ain Aqilah Basirun.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Islamic Azad University (IAU) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Biotechnology and Biomolecular SciencesUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  2. 2.Faculty of Science and Natural ResourcesUniversiti Malaysia SabahKota KinabaluMalaysia
  3. 3.Veterinary Laboratory Services Unit, Department of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnostic, Faculty of Veterinary MedicineUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia
  4. 4.Faculty of Health SciencesUniversiti Kebangsaan MalaysiaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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